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The Fifth Commandment 

A biography ofShapurji Saklatvala 
’ and memoir by his daughter 

Sehri Saklatvala 


The Fifth Commandment: A Biography ofShapurji Saklatvala and Memoir by his 
Daughter 

By Sehri Saklatvala 

First digital edition, July 2012. 

Originally published by Miranda Press, July 1991, with ISBNs 0951827405 & 
978-0951827406. 

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- 
NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. 


2 



Table of Contents 


Editor's Note 5 

Author's Preface 6 

Chapter 1 - The Sun Rises in the East 8 

Chapter 2 - The Plague Years 20 

Chapter 3 - The Quest for Iron 31 

Chapter 4 - The Sun Veers to the West 41 

Chapter 5 - The Quest for a Political Solution 54 

Chapter 6 - The Mind is its Own Place 66 

Chapter 7 - Freedom for Me and Mine, Bondage for Thee and Thine 88 

Appendix A to Chapter 7: Statement of the Workers’ Welfare League of India, 1919 112 

Appendix B to Chapter 7: ‘The Call of the Third International’ 123 

Appendix C to Chapter 7: Terms of Comintern Membership 129 

Chapter 8 - A Communist in Parliament 135 

Appendix A to Chapter 8: Report to the Labour Party Conference, 1922 147 

Appendix B to Chapter 8: ‘Explanatory Notes on the Third International’ 151 

Appendix C to Chapter 8: Saklatvala’s Election Addresses of 1922 159 

Chapter 9 - A New Voice for the People 167 

Chapter 10 - Speaking Against Imperialism 201 

Chapter 11 - The Deportations to Ireland 212 

Chapter 12 - The MP for Battersea and India 240 

Chapter 13 - A Narrow Defeat 261 

Chapter 14 - Re-election and the Red Scare 274 

Chapter 15 - Banned from the USA 296 

Chapter 16 - A Subversive in Parliament 314 

Chapter 17 - The General Strike and a Term of Imprisonment 325 

Chapter 18 - A Return to India 359 

Chapter 19 - Defending the Rights of Workers 386 

Appendix to Chapter 19: Amendments to the Trade Disputes Bill 392 

Chapter 20 - A Cloak on the Tyranny 396 

Chapter 21 - Saklatvala on Socialism 422 

Appendix to Chapter 21: Amendment to ‘Perils of Socialism’ 437 

Chapter 22 - A Revolutionary in Parliament 439 

Chapter 23 - Some Family Life 446 

Chapter 24 - A Conspiracy Against Colonialism 452 

Appendix to Chapter 24: Memorial of the Meerut Prisoners 462 

Chapter 25 - Detained in Ostend 466 

Chapter 26 - The Pact of Deception 473 

Chapter 27 - A Disheartening Defeat 482 

Chapter 28 - More Family Life 488 

Chapter 29 - Final Years 502 

Chapter 30 - Last Days 509 

Chapter 31 - Tributes to Saklatvala 518 

Further reading 526 


3 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


A BIOGRAPHY OF SHAPURJI SAKLATVALA AND MEMOIR BY HIS 

DAUGHTER 


SEHRI SAKLATVALA 



Photo: Saklatvala with the author as a child 


4 




Editor's Note 


This edition of The Fifth Commandment has been newly revised, edited, 
annotated and illustrated for digital publication. Electronic publication affords 
the opportunity of a wider readership and a longer life for the book than the 
original printed edition could ever achieve. 

Contemporary newspaper clippings have been interspersed through the text, 
mostly from The Times— although as the voice and epitome of the British 
establishment, that organ could never have been expected to sympathise with 
Saklatvala’s views. Its archives were, however, the only ones available for free 
to the present editor, who believes all the material included to be out of 
copyright. 

In line with the author’s intentions, this digital edition is made freely available 
to historians, educators, scholars and activists under the Creative Commons 
3.0 Licence; you can distribute, copy and reproduce any unaltered part of the 
text, provided that due acknowledgement of the source is given and that no 
profit ensues. 

The editor 
June 2012 



Photo: Portrait of Saklatvala as part of the mural Battersea View by 
Brian Barnes and Neil Torbett, 1998 


5 


Author's Preface 


Before I start this narrative, I had better explain the title of the book; I have 
myself often been irritated when an author chooses a periphrastic title and 
fails to tell the reader the significance of it until almost the last page, by which 
time I am usually beyond caring. The fifth commandment appears in the Bible, 
in Exodus, chapter 20, verse 12, wherein it is said: “Honour thy father and thy 
mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God 
giveth thee.” That is exactly what I am doing in writing this story: I write a 
book; I carve a headstone. 

The only memorial to my father is a plain and modest marble tablet at the foot 
of his mother’s grave in the Parsi burial ground in Brookwood Cemetery in 
Woking, under which his ashes lie. It reads: 

Shapurji D. Saklatvala, 
eldest son ofDorabji and Jerbai Saklatvala , 
mourned by his sorrowing wife Sehri and their five children. 

Born Bombay 28th March 1874. 

Died London 16th January 1936. 

Member of Parliament 1922/23 and 1924/29. 

Nothing but death could end his courage and determination in the cause of 

humanity. 

Nothing but such determination could conquer death. 

His work lives on. 

My mother has no memorial stone. Instead, with the help of the Derbyshire 
County Council, I had planted a hundred and twenty trees on the hillside 
beside the cottage where she was born in the village of Tansley. It seemed a 
more creative way of commemorating her life, for she always loved nature, and 
especially her Derbyshire ‘heimat.’ Although she left her village when she was 
eighteen and lived to be eighty-eight, she never wholly lost her native accent, 
nor the colourful and unique phrases of her corner of England. 


6 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


While this is primarily an account of Father’s life, his story is inextricably 
entwined with the life of Sally Marsh, who became Sehri Saklatvala when she 
married him in the summer of 1907. They were a diverse but devoted couple, 
and each one fully appreciated the qualities of the other; Shapurji always said 
that he would not have been able to devote himself wholeheartedly to politics 
had he not had a sensible wife to whom he could with confidence entrust the 
well-being of the family. And, although Sehri survived him by more than forty- 
one years, she spoke of him continually in her everyday affairs, quoting his 
views if ever she wanted to make a point in an argument, and still following his 
advice, given years before, when she had to cope with illness or any crisis or 
dilemma. 

It was probably her constant devotion and references to him that have kept 
him very much in the forefront of my mind; for although I was only sixteen 
when he died, I still use his views as my yardstick and quite consciously refer 
to what I think would be his opinion when making important decisions. 

Sehri Saklatvala 
1990 



Photo: The author on the occasion of her 90th birthday, June 2009 


7 



CHAPTER l 


The Sun Rises in the East 

Saklatvala’s family background and early life, 1874 -1895. 
Life in Bombay with his uncle, Jamsetji Tata. Attendance at 

St Xavier’s Jesuit College. 


Shapur Dorab Saklatvala was born on March 28th 1874 in Navsari, Gujerat, 
India. Shapurji’s family situation was a complicated one, which had a 
profound influence on his subsequent philosophies and conduct. 

Shapurji’s great-uncle, Nusserwanji Tata, was not born into opulence, but he 
was a creative man of vision and determination, and it was he who founded 
the great business house of Tata, one of the first multiple companies to emerge 
on the Indian commercial scene. He had fulfilled a childhood dream and 
planned and laid the foundations of a lavishly splendid dwelling, Esplanade 
House, completed after his death by his only son Jamsetji, who had worked 
closely with his father, and whose contribution had helped to insure the 
prosperity and growth of the family firm. 

[Editor’s note: the suffix ‘-ji’ appended to Indian names indicates affection and 
respect]. 


8 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: The Tata family around 1900 
L-R: Dorabji, Heerabai, Dhunbai, Jamsetji, Ratanji, Navajbai 

Nusserwanji had four daughters: Ratanbai, Maneckbai, Virbai and Jerbai. It 
was this youngest daughter, who was affianced in childhood to Dorabji 
Saklatvala, the son of one of Nusserwanji’s business partners, Shapurji 
Saklatvala the elder. Dorabji and Jerbai were my father’s parents. Daddy was 
their second child and the eldest of four sons, and he therefore enjoyed the 
confidence of his father, more than his three younger brothers. They lived 
modestly in the Fort area of Bombay (now Mumbai). 

The Saklatvala family moved to Esplanade House and all its grandeur when 
Shapurji was about fourteen; Jamsetji Tata was living there with his wife 
Heerabai and two sons, Dorabji, fifteen years older than my father, and 
Ratanji, some three years older than Shapur. Jamsetji made a home for all his 
nephews, saying that they were all grandsons of his father, Nusserwanji. 


9 





THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: Esplanade House, Bombay 

Esplanade House was large enough to accommodate this extended family; it 
was built round a courtyard in the classical style, and furnished in the 
European manner, for Jamsetji was a great traveller. He was also an avid 
reader and had a well-stocked and much-used library, which doubtless 
enriched my father’s childhood. 

Jamsetji (or J.N.) Tata was one of the leading lights of the Parsi community. 
This, of course, was when India was part of the British Empire, the ‘jewel in 
the crown,’ and the Indians were a subject people with virtually no voice in 
their own affairs or government. But, on the whole, the Parsis were looked 
upon with favour by the British rulers — they were competent entrepreneurs 
and traders, cultured and educated very much in the Western mould, and not 
averse to co-operating with the British Raj more readily than most of the 
Hindu and Muslim populations. 

The Parsis had come to India as refugees in about 936, when the Muslim 
domination of Persia (now Iran) made it very dangerous for the Zoroastrians 
to practice their religion there. They had sought and obtained permission to 
settle on the west coast of India in the area of Bombay. There they have lived 
harmoniously with their hosts ever since, maintaining their Zoroastrian faith. 
Like the Jews in Europe, they have perpetuated their own religion and 
traditions and, though comparatively few in number, have kept themselves 
intact as an integral fraternity. They gained the reputation of being 
industrious, intelligent, courageous— and usually wealthy. They were also 
lavishly charitable; indeed, they are so still. 

I have always described us as being zoologically Persian, but geographically 
and patriotically Indian; but since I have inherited from my father his belief in 
the universality of man and his dislike of anything that divides us into 
competing groups either of religion or of race, I offer the reader these tit-bits 
of information light-heartedly. Inasmuch as we all inherit and are shaped by 


10 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


our history, a slight knowledge of our forbears might help the reader to 
understand and know my father better. 

Shapurji wrote to a friend in the mid-i920s, describing his and his father’s 
view of the family relationships. Whether it is a true picture of the situation as 
it really was, or not, it reveals his attitude and feelings about his father vis-a- 
vis the Tatas. All these years after the events, I am not in a position 
dispassionately to judge the rights and wrongs of the case; for the purpose of 
this book, they are not important. It is Shapurji’s deeply held convictions and 
beliefs that are important in trying to understand his later political 
development. Unfortunately the first page of the letter is missing, and I am 
therefore unable to know the precise date or the name of the recipient, but it 
must have been written about 1926, because there was a court case in 1927 and 
this document appears to have been written a short time before that. 

“...After years of injustice and suffering, my father has gone but, through 
him, the duty to our past ancestors still remains. I have to hand over 
that burden to my children and towards them it is my equally great duty 
to keep on trying with unceasing efforts to leave to them the heritage of 
duty with their rights under the existent state of social structure, while it 
lasts and dominates over chances of life. The Tata fortune began with 
Nusserwanji Tata, but in all early initiative stages and efforts there was 
an equally valuable partnership and substantial co-operation of 
Shapurji Saklatvala [my father is referring here to his grandfather, after 
whom he was named]. When the latter died, he left entirely to the 
honour and discretion of the former, the fixing and distribution of the 
fortune to the surviving heirs, of whom my father Dorabji was the sole 
male heir and a special favourite almost undesirably spoilt. 

“An ordinary trustee would have safeguarded the business rights of such 
an heir and also created a careful trust for the future safety of such an 
heir who was then a helpless minor of fourteen. This was not done but 
the unusual course was adopted of handing over all jewellery, house 
property and 90,000 rupees to the widow, without trust conditions and 
with further assurance that the son Dorabji, being about to become the 
Trustee’s own son-in-law, would have nothing to want. 

“Well, he had to lead all his life in want and from this age he was 
dispossessed of all wealth as well as business rights in the firm. Further, 


11 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


all throughout we, his children, were brought up positively to disrespect 
and even to despise him with the open doctrine that every Saklatvala 
influence must be wrong and every Tata quality the crystal clear virtue. 
The open misappropriation of the rights of our father was explained to 
us as a thing to be made up to us and in us. Nothing of the sort has been 
done. I grew old enough to discover the most cruel wrong done to my 
father and through him to our future stock. The abominable trait in the 
Tata lesson to us of despising our father I see now burning again in the 
heart of Sir Dorabji in the relationship between myself and my children 
[Sir Dorabji was J.N. Tata’s elder son and my father’s cousin]. Any 
person of honourable social instincts would be horrified by the superior 
Tatas in a sort of continuous action. I am taking it with a philosophic 
tolerance as a fatalistic hatred that sometimes exists between closely 
related families. 

“The economic wrong stood for all these years under the excuse that 
Dorabji as a ward was disobedient, vicious and uncontrollable. I 
visualise now that he was a stripling lad of fourteen and the persons 
who dispossessed him were Nusserwanji, over forty years of age, a 
powerful, capable administrator, and Jamsetji Tata, over twenty-five 
years of age and possessed of remarkable tact, talent and strong will. 
“Somehow an idea has always prevailed, and (been) encouraged by the 
latter-day Tatas, as if Jamsetji Tata had freely or even reasonably spent 
sums upon our living, health and education. This is absolutely untrue, 
and though our needs were great, with the ruination of our Father, we 
had to do everything in life inadequately in proportion to very slender 
means. When my brother Beram became of school age, the question of 
paying fees for the fifth child became a huge problem. There was no 
Tata help for him. Year after year to the very last he proved to be one of 
India’s best brains [Beram became a successful metallurgist in 
Pittsburgh, USA]. I had to go periodically to the Rector of our College, 
explain our household poverty, and thus got Beram educated without 
payment, ABC class to his final BSc Degree, on the charity of the kind- 
hearted Jesuit Fathers. For his post-graduate work he obtained the 
official Tata loan which he paid back with a per cent interest... no 
supplementary assistance was ever extended to us. Our respect for 


12 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Jamsetji was our voluntary contribution of a moral value.” 

Bearing in mind that this letter was written with such a conviction that a great 
wrong had been done to his father all those years before, one can imagine 
what an impact such a situation must have had upon Saklatvala as a young 
boy. 

It is almost certain that both his father and his mother had related to him, as 
the eldest son, the story of how his father had been deprived of his due 
patrimony, (for, rightly or wrongly, this was their contention). Thus he was 
made aware that his father felt aggrieved and wronged by the Tata family. 
Shapurji, like the young Hamlet, was convinced that his uncle, Jamsetji Tata, 
had virtually destroyed his father — not that he had actually taken his life but, 
in Shapurji’s eyes, he had totally blighted it, and robbed him of success, 
position and prestige. For the firm, initiated by Nusserwanji, grew and 
blossomed under the visionary helmsmanship of Jamsetji, but Dorabji 
Saklatvala had virtually no share in the prosperity, though his father had been 
a founding partner in the business. 

There is no official record of the fact, but Father had told my mother shortly 
before their marriage that his parents had separated and were living apart. My 
mother told me of this years later. Shapurji remained devoted to both his 
parents and must have felt very keenly the lack of his father’s presence 
throughout his boyhood. Again there is no record of how often Dorabji was 
able to see his sons, but, since Shapurji remained fondly attached to him, it 
would seem that they probably met quite often. Notes made from a 
conversation soon after my father’s death, between Shapurji’s life-long friend, 
Kaikoo Mehta, and my brother Beram, merely say that Granddad was hardly 
ever there in the mills in Bombay. 

Another early acquaintance, Mr Spitam Cama, in a letter to my brother, writes 
that he first met Shapurji in 1890 and goes on to say, “...At this time, as far as I 
remember, his father Dorab was away in Madras. It was Jamsetji Tata who 
was the leading light in Esplanade House, and in the Saklatvala household.” It 
would appear that the separation was not so much an emotional breach 
between the mother and father, as a physical separation caused by the Tatas 
sending Dorabji Saklatvala to work in their branches away from Bombay, and 
at the same time, making a home for his wife and children in Bombay away 
from him. 


13 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


This means that Shapurji as a teenager was brought up in the household and 
in the care of J.N. Tata, who had been described to him by his absent father as 
the son of the man who had wronged his father. Had Shapurji been able to 
dislike Jamsetji, it might perhaps have been easier for him to cope with 
emotionally. But Jamsetji always had been especially fond of Shapurji and saw 
in him from a very early age the possibilities of great potential; he gave him a 
lot of attention and had great faith in his abilities, both as a boy and as a man. 
Indeed, this deep affection between Jamsetji and the young Shapur led to 
Jamsetji’s elder son, Dorab, being jealously resentful of this young cousin, 
fifteen years his junior. As boys and as men, they were always antagonistic 
towards each other; the breach was never healed. And while the young Shapur 
must have enjoyed and been flattered by the paternal attitude of his uncle, he 
probably felt rather guilty about it, remembering that it was that same uncle 
and that uncle’s father who had caused such unhappiness to his parents. 



Photo: St Xavier’s College, Mumbai 

Also, it seems from Shapurji’s 1926(?) letter that Uncle Jamsetji always 
belittled Dorabji Saklatvala and encouraged the sons to disparage him. I can 
well imagine that a sensitive boy, such as my father undoubtedly was, must 
have been torn apart by such conflicting loyalties. Also, he definitely saw his 
father as an underdog and as a man not enjoying the prosperity of other 
members of the family. This may well account for his early sympathies with 
the really poor people who abounded in the city of Bombay. Indeed, Kaikoo 
Mehta, Spitam Cama and his own brother, Sorab, all say that at a very early 
age he was perplexed and concerned by the differences between the rich and 
the poor, between men of wealth and influence and esteem, and those who 
were despised and humiliated by their poverty. Much of this could have 


14 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


stemmed from the differences in status he observed between his affluent and 
influential uncle and his much poorer and somewhat despised father. 

His references to the kindness and charity of the Jesuit Fathers in educating 
free of charge his youngest brother Beram are also very significant. There has 
been speculation as to whether or not Shapurji as a young man was baptised in 
the Catholic faith. The question was raised legally in connection with 
Shapurji’s rights to benefit under certain family trusts. My father contended, 
in a document submitted to counsel for legal opinion, that he was not baptised 
into the Roman Catholic Church, as alleged by the trustees and that he had at 
no time entered into the Roman or any other church. It was true, he explained, 
that 

“...many years ago while in Bombay, he was a student of Religions, and 
for this purpose he not only studied the Zoroastrian Religion but also 
the Christian Religion and he had discourses with the Roman Catholic 
Fathers of St Xavier’s College in Bombay where he was educated, and 
having regard to this fact it was somehow published in a Roman 
Catholic newspaper of Goa that he had adopted the Roman Catholic 
Religion, but immediately upon this being brought to his notice, he, 
within a very few days, published a notice in the same newspaper, 
denying that he had embraced that religion.” 

It appears that the newspaper report came to the notice of his cousin, Dorabji, 
who had questioned Shapurji on the subject. Shapurji had assured him that 
the report was false and had shown him his own publication in the newspaper 
denying the unfounded allegation. I think it can safely and definitively be 
assumed that any dip into the baptismal waters of Catholicism was an 
intellectual and philosophical exercise, rather than a blinding flash of 
revelation and unquestioning faith. 

Like most Parsi families of that time, the Tatas and Saklatvalas were devout 
Zoroastrians and great importance was laid on religious observance. At seven 
years old, Shapurji had his Navjote ceremony, formally initiating him into the 
Zoroastrian faith. (It is similar to the Jewish Bar-Mitzvah or the Christian 
confirmation ceremony). This, of course, entailed his learning the prayers and 
fundamental teachings of the religion, and he was invested with the sudra (a 
fine cotton shift or shirt) and the kusti (a holy cord of lambswool worn like a 
girdle round the waist). It is a solemn ceremony conducted by a priest and 


15 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


witnessed by the child’s family and their friends. After the ceremony, gifts are 
given to the child and a meal is served and there is a family party. 

Later, when all four brothers were in their teens, they all attended a priestly 
seminary and underwent the first of the two stages for becoming a priest. This 
was quite usual among the families whose sons would be acceptable as 
members of the priesthood; it did not mean that they intended to become 
fully-fledged priests. The course was quite stringent and lasted for about a 
year. At the end of the course, the boys were presented to the head priest in 
the temple and conducted certain religious rites. 

Having thus been imbued with the teachings of the Parsi religion, the young 
Shapurji was taken from the vernacular school where he had started his 
education, and was transferred to St Xaviers School, which was run by the 
Jesuit Fathers. His natural inclinations and interest in things spiritual, 
nurtured by the solemn teachings of Zoroastrianism, now turned themselves 
to the religion of his new environment to which his change of school exposed 
him. 

His brother Sorab, writing to my brother Beram in 1937 said of him: 

“As he grew up his tendency was to take things much more seriously 
than boys of his own age. Personally I believe he was very greatly 
influenced by the austere and simple life of the Jesuit Fathers of the 
school, more so than any of us or any of the other non-christian boys. 
He seldom took part in any games and did not seem to enjoy the 
company of rowdy boys. He had a circle of friends of his own. Though in 
fairly good health he was physically never very strong and that fact also 
accounts for his not taking part in games or not freely mixing with his 
school companions. All the same he was willing to be helpful to others 
and was fond of joining debating societies or similar organisations. 
“When he entered St Xavier’s College in 1893 his outlook on life became 
still more serious and the influence of the Jesuit Fathers still more 
pronounced. Philosophy and religion attracted him to such a degree that 
he even neglected his other studies. He failed to take his Arts degree and 
would have made a second attempt but illness intervened. This 
prolonged illness made him weaker still physically but perhaps 
spiritually stronger. This to a certain extent filled him with bitterness 
which greatly changed his outlook on life. His religious propensities 

16 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


deepened and he began taking an interest in and freely mixing with the 
poorer classes. He seemed to be greatly perplexed by life’s vagaries and 
became indecisive as to what profession in life to follow. He continued 
his touch with the Jesuit Fathers and the old school and took an interest 
in many Catholic institutions, at the same time maintaining contact with 
Parsi institutions also.” 

Shapurji’s closest friend through school and college, and all through his life 
thereafter, was Kaikoo Mehta. Speaking of this period in Father’s life, Kaikoo 
said: 

“At college also we were together. During college, rumours and 
complaints that he was too thick with Catholics arose— all matters 
including religion. No doubt, he agreed. I can’t really say what influence. 
We did not talk about these discussions. But evidently things seem to 
have developed, which made people say he had been influenced. But he 
still acted as an orthodox Parsi. But always, even in early days, he 
always had a feeling for the poor and the underdog. He always used to 
go about and see these people in their cottages, discuss matters and 
sympathise with them and discussed the forces which kept them poor.” 
Another old acquaintance of Shapurji (I would not go so far as to describe him 
as a friend, though they remained in touch for most of their lives) was Spitam 
Cama. He wrote, also to my brother in 1937: 

“During 1892-1895 when Shapurji was between 18 and 21 years of age, 
we were together in St Xavier’s College. He shone there in mathematics 
and English literature and was altogether a brilliant student. During 
these years we met almost every evening at Marker’s Ground in Bombay 
[now Mumbai], where we played cricket or football or some other sport. 
With us were the Mehta boys, Patel, Petit and, sometimes, Shapurji’s 
brothers. 

“It was during this period also that Shapurji made his first attempt at 
any sort of public speaking. This was at the Gwalia Circle, a club of 
which he was one of the founders. Among his fellow members were the 
sons of Sir Pherozeshaw Mehta, J.R. Patel, subsequently a leading 
lawyer, S. Cama, young Lalkaka who became a Collector in Karachi, and 
J.B. Petit, who was destined to sit in the Indian Legislative Assembly. 
This club was a well organised affair with reading rooms and a meeting 


17 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


place in the Kamballa Hill district. There the young men used to meet 
for debates and discussions. These were mostly of a purely literary 
nature, and nothing political was ever brought up. Shapurji, with 
considerable debating experience within the College itself and full of 
enthusiasm for things literary was a leading figure at these semi-public 
functions. 

“1900-1901: Some time during this period Shapurji was quite seriously 
ill... He seemed to be toying rather seriously with the idea of 
Christianity. It should be emphasised that, although all the teachers at 
St Xaviers were Jesuits, he had never, apparently, been influenced at 
College towards their religion. [This does not tally with the views 
expressed by Uncle Sorab, my father’s brother, above. I think Sorab’s 
views were probably the more accurate and knowledgeable of the two.] 
It was during and particularly after this period of illness that he first 
showed such tendencies... Shapurji’s tendencies in the direction of 
Catholicism greatly displeased his family, and led to frequent quarrels. 
In these, Jamsetji himself never joined, but he was always very fond of 
Shapurji, showing him an affection and trust greater than he showed to 
his own boys, Dorab and Ratan.” 

Certainly Father always had a certain regard for nuns and priests as teachers, 
contending that, because they were not encumbered with the frictions and 
worries of family life and other mundane matters, they were able to take a 
greater interest in the development of children in their care. For this reason, 
he sent my younger brother and myself to a convent school. But he stipulated 
that we should not attend services in the chapel, nor were we to be given any 
religious instruction. 

He encouraged us always to read about and discuss religions, but he did not 
want us to be influenced by any one teacher in a matter so wide and so 
important. But he clearly thought that the simple and austere way of life of the 
nuns would serve as a good guide and example for us to follow. He believed 
that the core and the fundamental tenets of most religions led people to a good 
life; but the ritual of religions he thought to be divisive and the cause of much 
human dispute. 

Clearly religion and philosophy were the predominant passions of his early life 
and far outweighed all other interests. The quest only ended many years later 

18 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 

when he finally embraced communism as his creed. 


19 



CHAPTER 2 


The Plague Years 

Work in India during the bubonic plague and association 
with bacteriologist Professor Waldemar Haffkine, 1896 - 

1902. 


To add to the emotional turmoil caused by the tribal turbulence between the 
Tatas and the Saklatvalas, in 1896, there befell a plague on both their houses. 
In the late summer of that year it was officially reported that bubonic plague 
had assailed the city of Bombay. It was a scourge of disastrous proportions and 
was to rage until 1902, with periods of varying intensity. It was against this 
terrifying and depressing background of poverty, sickness and death that 
Shapurji spent the early years of manhood. 

It is astonishing to me that this plague was never mentioned at home, either 
by my father or mother; nor was it ever spoken of by Kaikoo Mehta, who was 
with us all continually and who was almost like a second father to the family. 
Indeed, the first hint I had of it was when, after starting to delve into 
Shapurji’s past, I began to read all his speeches in the House of Commons in 
Hansard. There was a debate in the House on the 25th November 1927, when 
it was proposed to send a Commission under the leadership of Sir John Simon 
to India. In the course of this debate, the Under- Secretary of State for India 
made a time-worn reference to the various religious factions in India, 
emphasising their mutual prejudices and dissensions; and to illustrate that the 
British in India were also showing that same prejudice, Shapurji, in the middle 
of a long speech, told the following anecdote: 

“...There are Hindus, Mohammedans, Sikhs and Parsees. We have heard 
it often and often, but may I ask whether this Bill, whether the 
imperialist rule in India, whether this Commission, intends to give one 
religion to India? Is that your object? Is that what you are doing? If you 
are merely ‘chewing the rag’ because there are many religions in India, 
how does that entitle you to go as pirates into somebody’s land and 
establish a rule? Will that make less religions? You will only make one 


20 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


more. What is the meaning of talking about all these irrelevant things? 
If you tell me that this Commission is going out to India and the 
unmistakable result is going to be a unification of religions, I will be 
ready to support it; but merely to talk about all the differences of 
religion in India and then argue from that that Great Britain is entitled 
to rule the whole of India, is an old-time deception that an enlightened 
world can no longer swallow. 

“If I may be permitted just to give something from my memory of a 
personal character in this matter. In 1902 a plague was having a 
devastating effect all over India. It was to be taken in hand not merely as 
a grave problem, but as something to save human lives. There was a 
Professor Haffkine in those days who was the first man who, with some 
measure of success, gave out an anti-plague serum for inoculation. His 
experiments were being conducted on a large scale. I was then 
associated as secretary with an important committee of welfare workers. 
The Governor of Bombay, who was then himself staying out of Bombay, 
immediately sent a telegram to Professor Haffkine to go to him with 
certain facts and figures because the matter was becoming of vital 
importance. 

“Professor Haffkine asked me to go and assist him. I gave up my work in 
the office, and I went to the place where he was staying, and that was his 
European club. People talk about untouchability! Although I had facts 
and figures at my disposal which were the result of months of study, and 
the Professor had only four or five hours at his disposal, I was actually 
prevented from entering the white man’s club. Yet a representative of 
that race today talks nonsense about untouchability among the Hindus. 
Ultimately, when it could not be helped, the messenger of the club, after 
telephoning to various government officials, took me to the back yard of 
the club, led me through the kitchen and an underground passage to a 
basement room, where the Professor was asked to see me because I was 
not a white man. That happened 25 years ago. 

“I got the Indian newspapers last Monday, and there is an example 
quoted of a European officer of very high position, a Britisher and his 
wife, who were travelling in a first class railway carriage. They had only 
reserved their own seats and a Mohammedan of very high rank, 


21 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


occupying a very high position in the government of India, had his seat 
reserved in the same carriage. When he wanted to enter the carriage the 
British officer would not allow him to sit in another seat in the same 
carriage. He held the door of the railway carriage so that the railway 
officials were unable to open the door, and that Mohammedan official 
had to take his seat in another carriage. Yet a man of that British race 
here today stands up and pours contempt upon the Hindus for insulting 
Mohammedans. Talk about depressed classes and untouchable 
classes...” 

This reference to my father’s voluntary work in connection with the plague led 
me to investigate further. In fact, in 1902 Bombay was witnessing the last 
dying swish of the tail of the dragon. This bubonic plague had made its first 
recognised appearance in Bombay on the 31st August 1896, by the registration 
of the death of an inhabitant in Broach Street from this cause. Earlier in the 
year, the monsoon had been unusually short and severe, and was followed by 
serious floods which destroyed crops and made roads and railways 
impassable. The torrential rainfall at one time burst the main water conduit 
from the storage lakes and the city was without water for eighteen days. 

I have not found any contemporary descriptions of the plight of the people at 
that time, but perhaps an apt picture is that described in the apocryphal Book 
of Judith: 

“And the cisterns were emptied, and they had not water to drink their 
fill for one day, for they gave them drink by measure. Therefore their 
young children were out of heart, and their women and young men 
fainted for thirst and fell down in the streets of the city, and by the 
passages of the gates, and there was no longer any strength in them.” 

It was when the population was thus already debilitated that the bubonic 
plague struck. Food prices had soared and, as always, it was the poverty- 
stricken who suffered the greatest deprivation and hardship. At first, the 
authorities tried to play down the situation and, consequently, it was not until 
the 23rd September 1896 that measures for the eradication of the plague were 
adopted 


22 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: Waldemar Haffkine 

Here I must interrupt the narrative of Shapurji to introduce a new character 
into our story. He is Professor Waldemar Haffkine (born Vladimir Aaronovich 
Havkin), a Russian Jew who went to Calcutta in 1893. He was an exponent of 
the then comparatively new science of bacteriology. Since he was to have quite 
an important influence on the young and impressionable Shapurji, we must 
spend a little time to get to know him. 

Haffkine was born in Odessa in i860, the son of a schoolmaster of modest 
means. He managed with the frugal help of his elder brother to study in 
Odessa University, and he received twenty kopeks a day from the University 
for his food; so he knew what poverty was all about. He was an ardent student 
and worked under Professor Mechnikov. He soon saw the injustices of the 
Tsarist regime, which interfered constantly with the freedom of the university, 
and he joined the revolutionary underground movement known as the 
Narodnaya Volya Party, an illegal organisation set up in 1879. Some of its 
members resorted to acts of terrorism in their fight against the tyranny of the 
monarchy. 

In 1882 Haffkine was expelled from the university for sending a letter to the 
Rector in support of Professor Mechnikov, who was in disgrace with the 
authorities. In 1881 he was arrested and served a jail sentence, and he was 
under police surveillance in Odessa for eight years, and three times endured 
the extremely harsh conditions of imprisonment under the Tsarist regime. 

As a result of all this revolutionary activity, Professor Mechnikov escaped to 
Paris, where he joined Louis Pasteur in his institute. Later, Haffkine followed 
him and was found a minor job in the institute until, in 1890, he was 


23 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


appointed as a research assistant there. Until then, the only vaccines that had 
been found were against anthrax and rabies. Haffkine now concentrated on 
finding a vaccine against cholera, which was rife in Asia and the Middle East 
and was threatening Europe. Indeed, before he had been successful, there 
were outbreaks of cholera in Paris and London and all over his beloved Russia. 
He worked incessantly during all his waking hours and had no other interests 
or distractions and, eventually, he found a safe vaccine. The first human trials 
were carried out on himself and three of his fellow Russian exiles and, 
mercifully for all of us, the inoculations proved both harmless and efficacious. 
Meanwhile, Russia was ravaged by the disease, and Haffkine sought 
permission from the authorities there to return home and help to arrest the 
spread of the epidemic. But, because of his political associations, he was 
refused admission to his homeland. It was believed that the disease had 
spread all over Europe from Bengal, and it was for this reason that Haffkine 
applied in London to go to Bengal to set up a laboratory there and to help to 
arrest the further dissemination of cholera. There were many delays and it is 
almost certain that the British government was informed by the Russian 
Ambassador in London of Professor Haffkine’s politically stormy past; but 
eventually, early in 1893, Professor Haffkine set sail for Bengal to take up the 
post of bacteriologist with the government of India; and what a blessing his 
presence in India was to prove to be, not only for India but for the whole of 
mankind. 

And incidentally to this great cause, circumstances were to bring this Russian 
revolutionary, this brilliant and dedicated scientist and humanitarian, into 
contact with Shapurji Saklatvala. Was it perhaps Haffkine who sowed the seed 
of revolution in the fertile garden of Shapurji’s compassionate nature? It 
seems to me to be highly likely, for Shapurji was to work with the professor for 
six plague-ridden years. 

When the plague struck the city of Bombay, it had a disastrous effect upon 
trade and upon the municipal revenue. Official reports of the period show that 
almost half the population fled in panic out of the city, and business of all 
kinds was paralysed for a time. Hoping to slay the insatiable monster that was 
killing the population by hundreds every week, the government sent Professor 
Haffkine to Bombay to combat the terrible scourge. He arrived in the city on 
the 7th October 1896, and the very next day set to work in a one-room 


24 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


laboratory, with no scientific staff, to find a prophylactic vaccine. His quest 
was for a system of inoculation of the healthy to prevent them being infected 
by the disease, rather than to find a serum to cure the already stricken. After 
three or four months of ceaseless and painstaking toil, he finally produced a 
vaccine which, as with his cholera vaccine, he tried upon himself as the first 
human experiment. During this time he was joined by a few doctors and his 
staff was enlarged. 

He had many bitter critics, not least among the medical profession, but it 
seems that Jamsetji Tata was one of his enthusiastic supporters. He and his 
family, no doubt including Shapurji, were inoculated many times in the 
ensuing years and none of them succumbed to the plague. Jamsetji Tata 
instructed one of his close colleagues, one Burjorji Padshah, to give every 
possible assistance to Haffkine. Padshah recruited all the young Parsi students 
then studying at St Xavier’s College to help the Russian professor, especially in 
the gathering and maintenance of statistical records of his work and, 
subsequently, of the programme of inoculation. Shapurji Saklatvala was 
among these young volunteer helpers. It was his first association with a man 
who was not only a dedicated scientist and humanitarian, but who had been 
driven out of his homeland, Russia, because of his revolutionary associations 
and anti-Tsarist politics. 

Of course, in the situation in which he was now working, Professor Haffkine 
had neither time nor energy for politics and devoted himself entirely to his 
scientific research and his unceasing efforts to inoculate as many of the 
population as possible. But it is surely likely that he talked to Shapurji about 
his experiences when the two of them met. It is, I think, safe to assume that, 
when Shapurji was sent to a basement room in the European club and 
Professor Haffkine had to join him there, that some comment of the situation 
must have been made. It is recorded that the Professor was very critical of the 
British imperialist authorities, noting as he did the abject poverty, 
overcrowding and insanitary housing in which the majority of the Indians 
lived; he saw that the victims of the plague were to be found mostly among the 
poor, and scarcely any in the European or wealthier quarters of the city. When 
Shapurji presented him with the statistics, it is inconceivable that no 
comments were made and that no discussions took place between the two 
men. Their outlooks had much in common; and no doubt this close 


25 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


association between the older idealist and scientist and the young, 
compassionate student, must have helped to form and to crystallise the 
convictions of Shapurji. Haffkine’s selflessness, like that of the Jesuit Fathers, 
must have had a profound influence on his young apostle. 

It should not be imagined that all the lessons of compassion were to be found 
only outside his family. He was reared in an atmosphere of tenderness and 
benevolence, for it was said of Jamsetji Tata that success in business did not 
diminish his sensitive and sincere sympathy for the poor; indeed, when 
speaking of their problems, it is recorded that his eyes filled with tears and he 
was always prepared to spend money for the public good. So it is not 
surprising that compassion and caring for the poor were fostered in the heart 
and mind of Shapurji, surrounded as he was by great minds of a similar 
disposition. 

During the Christmas holiday of 1896, the Tata family moved en masse to 
their family home in Navsari, an annual treat, especially for all the younger 
members of the clan, who were able to enjoy their freedom from studies, with 
picnics and all kinds of festivities. During those early weeks of the plague, 
when almost half the population of the city had fled, Dorabji Tata insisted on 
returning to his office and to the mills in Bombay as soon as the holiday period 
was over; it was important to encourage the workers to stay at their posts, 
otherwise the business could easily have failed. Many mills in the town closed 
down at that time, but the Tata mills kept going, though of course the general 
commercial depression had an adverse effect on the development of the 
company. 

By the time this ‘Christmas holiday’ was over, the vaccine against the plague 
had been successfully developed and inoculations began. Jamsetji Tata was a 
zealous advocate of vaccination, and when his son Dorabji married in 1898 
and the bride’s family entered the Tata household for the wedding, they were 
made to subject themselves to inoculation as soon as they arrived! Not 
everyone, even among the more educated, were quite so amenable. There was 
great antagonism to the system, and many people were terrified that it would 
actually give them the disease rather than protect them from it. Professor 
Haffkine insisted always that vaccination should be voluntary; then, as now, 
the rights of the individual were sometimes protected. Perhaps, though, had it 
been compulsory, it might not have taken six years for the plague to be 


26 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


brought under control. 

But certain regulations had to be obeyed. All victims of the disease had to be 
removed from their homes and taken to hospitals and kept in isolation. Since 
very few of those struck down recovered, the poor and uneducated thought 
that the government was sending them to hospital merely to hasten their 
death and they resisted this enforced removal from their homes with ingenuity 
and defiance. Deaths also had to be reported and the bodies safely disposed of. 
Army and police patrols circulated in the city, seeking out the sick and the 
dead. 

As early as October 1896, the mill-hands in several of the mills were so 
incensed by the laws of segregation and hospitalisation, that about a thousand 
of them assembled outside the Arthur Road Hospital and threatened to 
demolish the building and to disperse the staff. They pelted the building with 
stones and any missiles they could find and attacked any members of the 
medical staff who were intrepid enough to emerge. The police had to be called 
in to quell what could almost certainly be termed a riot. 



Photo: Bombay around 1900 

There is a touching story appearing in the official report by the Commissioner 


27 






THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


for Bombay, which demonstrates the intensity of feeling against compulsory 
hospitalisation of the victims. A Parsi family had taken in a Hindu boy, 
thirteen years of age, an orphan of whom they became very fond. The child 
was infected by the plague and the doctor said he must be removed to the 
hospital. The ladies of the family refused to let him go. When the doctor 
insisted, they armed themselves with kitchen knives and surrounded the sick 
bed, declaring that they would all kill themselves if the child were taken from 
them. The police were called. But before the patient could be taken, he was 
carried away by death. Sad as it no doubt was, his timely demise certainly 
saved the police from an ugly confrontation. But if women were prepared to go 
to such lengths to prevent a little adopted boy of another religion from being 
hospitalised, to what lengths would parents go to keep their own children with 
them in the home? 

The Commissioner for the city was wise enough to realise the extreme danger 
of this widespread terror inspired by the enforcement of the segregation and 
hospitalisation laws. He feared more than anything that the Halalkhors and 
Bigarries, who constituted the sanitation workforce, would panic and leave the 
city. Were this to happen, the disinfecting and flushing of the city’s drains, 
water supply, roads and buildings would become impossible; if this essential 
service came to a standstill, the only remedy would be to remove the whole 
population out of the town, leaving the plague-ridden, bubonic-infested rats to 
take over a dead and derelict city. The threat of the withdrawal of the working 
people reached a climax on the 30th October and, the Municipal 
Commissioner issued proclamations explaining and modifying the 
enforcement of segregation and hospitalisation. Although it may have been, 
medically speaking, less safe, he thereby dispelled the almost certainty of 
extensive riots and wholesale abandonment of the city by the populace. 

It was about this time that my father should have sat for his BA degree. Kaikoo 
Mehta merely says that he did not sit for his finals, giving no explanation. His 
brother Sorab indicated that the reason was that he became totally engrossed 
in things religious and philosophic to the detriment of his regular studies. But 
it appears that all his college cronies and himself were roped in by Burjorji 
Padsaw to help in the gathering and maintaining of statistics to help Professor 
Haffkine in his work. The information required was the precise number of 
individuals affected by the plague, how many were vaccinated against it and 


28 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


how many of those so vaccinated were infected etc. These figures and other 
vital information were obtained from actual visits to the homes of potential 
and actual victims. 

I think it is probable that Shapurji became totally engrossed in this work 
which he seems to have continued, alongside his work in the office for the 
family firm, until 1902 when, as referred to in his House of Commons speech 
already quoted, he says he was the Secretary of one of the Plague Relief 
Committees. The fact that Professor Haffkine had sent for him personally, and 
that Shapurji called alone on the Professor, indicates that there was quite a 
close association between the two men. 

In a biography of Haffkine by Mark Popovski, it is said that Haffkine visited 
five and six storey tenement buildings, with many families living together in 
one room without windows or ventilation. Haffkine is reported as having said, 
“When they showed me a row of buildings which housed between 700 and 
1000 people and told me that there had been plague cases in similar buildings 
throughout the district, I saw at once that there would be no point in carrying 
through the measures decided upon by the municipal authorities...” 

No doubt, Shapurji visited similar hovels and talked to the inhabitants of 
them. Had it not been for his welfare work due to the sickness prevailing, it is 
doubtful whether anyone of his social background would have had any 
personal contact with those poor people. How could he see their suffering and 
return to the splendour of Esplanade House at the end of the day, without 
realising the need for a total and absolute change in the social structure of the 
community? Jamsetji Tata’s will shows the extent of his properties: 
“Esplanade House my residence in Bombay, my townhouse and my country 
seat at Nowsari and my bungalow Castle Hill at Matheran.” What feelings of 
guilt and injustice must have assailed the earnest young Shapurji as he toured 
the plague-ridden slums of the city for Professor Haffkine? 

It was in about 1901, according to Spitam Cama and to Kaikoo Mehta, that, 
after a period of overwork, Shapurji became very seriously ill. No one has 
specified the illness; but he was sent to a sort of sanatorium in the hills of 
Panchgani, close to where Spitam Cama’s family were staying. Jamsetji Tata 
also had a house there. Mr Cama describes Shapurji as being very depressed, 
spending whole days walking on his own in the hills. He wrote poetry at this 
time, but since none of it was preserved, we will never know its worth. His 


29 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


brother wrote that the doctors at one time thought there was nothing more to 
be done to effect a cure and that afterwards, when he had recovered, the family 
doctor said it was only his supreme willpower that had pulled him through. 
(Years later, we all had a holiday in the Surrey home of my sister-in-law’s 
family. In his letter thanking them, my father said how the scenery near 
Dorking had reminded him of his retreats in the hills in India where they went 
to escape the heat of the plains. Perhaps, during that holiday, he was thinking 
nostalgically of those agonising days of sickness and the relief of his recovery). 

I do not think it was merely the physical overwork that affected him, but the 
emotional stresses of those years while he was working among the 
impoverished masses, overtaken by sickness and deprivation. Perhaps, 
whatever the illness was, the other effects of those years never really left him, 
for he spent his whole life thereafter struggling to better the lot of those 
masses of people living in destitution, want and humiliation. What he saw in 
those years of the bubonic plague must have remained always in his mind. It 
was to those victims of circumstance that he dedicated his life. 

The charitable and benevolent community of Parsis, to which he belonged, 
always sought to alleviate the distress of the poor. This was not enough for 
Shapurji. He sought not to alleviate but to eliminate poverty entirely; and not 
only in India, but all over the world. The 1917 revolution in Russia and the 
events following upon it led him to believe implicitly that communism could 
end abject poverty; it was for this reason and this reason alone, that he 
devoted the rest of his life to the propagation of world communism. The 
reader may or may not agree with him, but there can be no doubt of his 
dedication, sincerity and self sacrifice in what was, and remains, an unpopular 
cause in Britain. 


30 



CHAPTER 3 


The Quest for Iron 

Prospecting for minerals, 1901 - 1904, prior to the creation of 
the Tata Iron & Steel Company (TISCO). Resulting illness. 


The next phase of Shapurji’s life was his quest for iron ore and other minerals 
necessary for the formation of an iron and steel company. Jamsetji Tata was 
one of those rare men who dreamed splendid dreams and translated them into 
magnificent reality. Ancient India had had a thriving and skilled iron 
manufacture; the iron column of the Kutab Minar in Delhi bears witness to 
this; it weighs more than seven tons, and is thought to be three thousand years 
old. This indicated that not only was there the skill in ancient India, but the 
raw materials must have been there in some abundance. 

During the nineteenth century the British rulers in India showed a 
considerable interest in the possibility of developing the iron and steel 
industry in the country. Various official reports of prospecting for the raw 
materials were published. Even as quite a young man, Jamsetji cherished the 
vision of adding this industry to his other commercial endeavours. Out of 
these aspirations and his hard work and tenacity, a flourishing industry was 
created, although Jamsetji himself did not live to see its final blossoming and 
fruition. But it was out of his far-sightedness, study and tireless travelling both 
in Europe and America that this great enterprise was achieved, bringing such 
benefits and wealth to India. 

To get such an enterprise off the ground, dreams and visions had to be set 
temporarily aside, and practical difficulties had to be faced and overcome with 
fortitude, skill and determination. There can be no doubt that Jamsetji Tata 
was a supremely colourful and powerful personality who was capable of 
making people share his enthusiasms and to work at his side with a dedication 
and tirelessness almost equal to his own. He was also very adept at choosing 
wisely a loyal and talented group of men to assist him in his ambitious 
aspirations. The idea of producing iron and steel simmered for many years in 
his mind, during which time he studied official reports and visited districts 


31 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


where it was thought that iron ore might be found. But it was not until 1899, 
when the rules governing the issue of prospecting licenses were amended and 
relaxed that he took positive steps to involve his company in this up and 
coming new industry. 

In the summer of 1901, Jamsetji Tata travelled to London, where he met Lord 
George Hamilton, Secretary of State for India, whose great desire it was to see 
industries in India developed with Indian capital. He greeted Mr Tata’s project 
enthusiastically and assured him that he would solicit the support of the 
Viceroy, Lord Curzon, in such an important venture. Fortified by such 
promises of official co-operation, Jamsetji returned to India where he 
obtained prospecting licenses for the Lohara and Peepulgaon areas in the 
Chanda District. 

Before setting out again on his travels, he put his son Dorabji in charge of the 
administrative side of the business and put Shapurji in charge of the actual 
explorations in the arduous search for iron ore, suitable coal and limestone 
deposits. It was seemingly a strange choice; Shapurji’s brother, Sorab, said 
that Father had never been very strong or robust; also, he had only fairly 
recently recovered from a severe illness. To lead a team of exploration in 
terrain that was certainly wild and rugged, if not actually hostile, called for 
physical stamina as well as a strong and pertinacious character. To select 
Shapurji for this task shows yet again Jamsetji’s perspicacity and wisdom. The 
physical challenge was probably the best cure for the young man’s ailments 
and, although he and his band of workers did not succeed in their quest, this 
preliminary expedition was helpful to the future larger one that accomplished 
the final breakthrough; and Shapurji was to be a member of that successful 
team also. 

The Chanda district is situated in the southernmost area of the central 
provinces. Much of the land is covered with dense forest, extending over the 
plains and plateaux alike, surrounding small villages and covering the valley 
floor that is interlaced with many rivers. There were tigers and leopards in the 
vicinity and bears were quite frequently seen. The summer and autumn 
months were extremely hot and unhealthy. Transport was by bullock cart or 
on horse-back from the town of Nagpur in the north of the district. Nagpur 
was the centre and headquarters from which the expedition set forth; it was 
about five hundred miles from Bombay, being then the terminus of the Great 


32 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Indian Peninsula Railway. Jamsetji had had a house there ever since he set up 
the Empress cotton mills in the town in 1877. 

During this early search, Shapurji set up camps in the various blocks which 
were to be examined for the desired minerals. From 1893 there had been very 
poor harvests of the rice, linseed, gram and wheat, which were the staple crops 
of the vicinity, and in 1896 and 1897 there was severe famine in the Chanda 
district. The sparse population had been reduced to great poverty and 
hardship and shortage of both food and water. It was a predominantly 
agricultural community, with some fishermen working in small boats along 
the network of rivers. Sometimes Shapurji’s team slept in the open in the 
bullock carts in which much of their travelling was accomplished. But quite 
often they shared the meagre hospitality of the villagers and slept in their huts 
and houses. So once again, Shapurji was thrown into the company of the 
poverty-stricken and simple people, this time, actually sharing their humble, 
often squalid, shelter. Years later, as a member of the British parliament, he 
was to demand their freedom and to advocate communism as a means of 
bettering their lot and offering them education and a decent standard of living. 
He must have been, I suspect, the only member of that illustrious body, who 
had enjoyed the hospitality of these humble villagers. No wonder, therefore, 
that he spoke with such heartfelt and impassioned oratory on their behalf. 

Once more putting Dorabji in overall charge, Jamsetji left India again in 1902 
for America, where he toured extensively, discussing not only the iron and 
steel project but looking closely into the cotton industry as well. After much 
journeying and meeting numerous experts in the metallurgical field, he went 
to Pittsburgh. There he met Julian Kennedy, one of the world’s leading 
metallurgical engineers, who advised him that the exploration work must be 
undertaken by an experienced specialist and not left to amateurs, however 
dedicated and persevering they might be. It was in Pittsburgh that he was 
finally introduced to an eminent consultant engineer, Charles Page Perin, who 
was destined to figure largely in the success story of the Tata Iron and Steel 
Company. Mr Perin in his turn, being unable to go immediately to India 
himself, arranged for his partner, geologist C.M. Weld, to leave for India 
straight away, even before Tata himself left the United States to return home. 
Therefore, in April 1903, Weld, Dorabji Tata and Shapurji set out together for 
further rugged exploration. They endured great heat, shortage of drinkable, 


33 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


clean water and suffered many privations. Villages were scattered and for the 
most part the team was in wild and hostile country; they only procured tents 
after they had been in the field for some time, and lived very primitively and 
underwent great physical hardship. Weld was to spend four years on the 
project, and he and Shapurji apparently got on well together. Talking to my 
brother, Beram, soon after Daddy died, Kaikoo Mehta said of this period in 
Father’s life: 

“[Shapur] went out working with Mr Weld. He was always rather a 
favourite with J.N. [Tata] in spite of his eccentricities; he thought him to 
be a talented young chap. When J.N. made use of him, he was in entire 
agreement with J.N.’s views regarding the Tata Iron and Steel Company, 
whereas Dorabji was not. Dorabji also agreed to go but did it in an 
orthodox manner, whereas Weld and Shapur used to rough it and 
prospect. [Shapur] got on well with the labouring classes, who used to 
be forced into service, but this he always condemned... the unofficial 
means of getting things done in India. Tyranny! Tyranny!... imposed by 
the underlings of the great Sahib. But Weld was a nice chap— they got on 
well. 

“There was disagreement with Dorabji, who was always opposed to him. 
He used to put Shapur down as much as possible in negotiations. 
Dorabji’s views were different— he wanted to back out and said his 
Father was on a wild goose chase. [It was a wild goose that subsequently 
was to lay a generous clutch of golden eggs!] He felt that European 
expertise was needed. But J.N. always had the idea of making these 
enterprises entirely Indian... Shapur agreed with him and helped him, of 
course, as a younger man... J.N. relied on him and gave serious 
consideration to his views. But Shapur never got on with Dorabji, who 
could not stand Shapur’s unorthodox views. They always held each 
other in mutual contempt— more on Dorabji’s side than Shapurji’s.” 
Kaikoo Mehta is a very reliable witness of Shapur’s early days and his 
relationships within the family. Kaikoo’s father, Sir Phirozeshah Mehta, was a 
close and intimate friend of Jamsetji, and the two men met regularly at least 
once a week when they were both in Bombay. Kaikoo also worked for the firm 
of Tatas and, after an initial period in Japan, worked for the firm in London all 
his life. He and Shapurji remained close and affectionate friends right up to 


34 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the time of Shapurji’s death in 1936, and he spent most weekends with us, and 
was really like a second father to all of us children. 

Perhaps Spitam Cama, being not quite such an intimate friend as Kaikoo 
Mehta, is a slightly less dependable chronicler of those early years; but his 
version of Shapurji’s status within the family supports what Kaikoo Mehta 
contends. He wrote: 

“...Your Father went to school when he was ten. He was always 
Jamsetji’s favourite. J.N. would always say to Shapur and not to Dorab, 
‘Get this; do this,’ and formed the habit of entrusting all jobs to him. So 
that although Dorab handled the financial side of TISCO [Tata Iron & 
Steel Company] foundation, it was Shapurji who was given the more 
difficult and responsible job of the actual prospecting. Dorab never 
overcame this boyish jealousy, and this, I think, was the cause of most of 
their later quarrels. They were always at loggerheads as children and 
remained so as men.” 

Kaikoo Mehta said that the two brothers, Dorab and Ratan, were constantly 
quarrelling, so Jamsetji finally decided to let Dorabji find his own quarters in 
Malabar Hill. This was in 1898, the year of Dorabji’s marriage to Mehrbai 
Bhaba; but normally he would have continued to live in his father’s house. 
Ratan had married in 1892, and he and his wife, Nawajbai, continued to live 
with Jamsetji until his death in 1904. Kaikoo Mehta also said that “the 
Saklatvalas moved out,” and that only Shapurji and his mother remained in 
Esplanade House with Jamsetji, Ratan and Nawajbai. Ratan and Shapurji 
always remained affectionate and good friends up to the time of Ratan’s early 
death in 1918. But of course it was Dorabji, as the elder son, who always had 
more power and influence in the firm. 

According to Sorab Saklatvala, after working with Weld and Dorabji for a 
while, it was decided to give up prospecting in the Chanda district; at this 
point, Dorabji left this work, and Shapurji and Mr Weld went on alone to 
continue the search in another area called Dondi-Lohara. 


35 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: The prospectors 

L-R: Dorabji Tata, Shapurji Saklatvala, Ratanji Tata(?), C.M. Weld 

While Shapurji and Mr Weld were on their adventurous task, the health of 
J.N. Tata was causing all the family great concern. He was persuaded to have a 
short holiday in Egypt and, from there, Dorabji, who was already in Europe, 
insisted on taking him to Vienna to consult an eminent doctor there. While 
they were passing through Naples Jamsetji learned of the death of his wife in 
Bombay. This shock and grief could only have made his own condition worse. 
He went to take treatment in a clinic in Vienna. Dorabji and Mehrbai were 
with him; and Shapurji’s youngest brother, Beram, who was studying 
metallurgy in Berlin at this time, also went there. 

The ailing Jamsetji went then with his family doctor to stay in Baden 
Nauheim, a German spa town, but his condition quickly deteriorated, and 
Dorabji and his wife, who had stayed on in Vienna, were sent for. There, 
surrounded by his son and daughter-in-law, his nephew Beram, and his 
cousin, R.D. Tata, Jamsetji died on 19th May 1904. They all accompanied his 
body to England, where he was buried in Brookwood Cemetery in Woking. His 
marble mausoleum, and those of his two sons, still stand in the Parsi burial 
ground there. 

I can find no record of where Shapurji was when he learned of the death of his 
uncle, but it seems likely that he was still in the wilds with C.M. Weld. His 
brother Sorab, writing to my brother Beram after Daddy’s death, said that 
Shapurji was very depressed by the loss of his uncle. There is no doubt that 
there had always been a special bond between the two of them; apart from the 
fact that Jamsetji thought highly of the young Shapur’s capabilities, he was 
also the eldest son of his favourite young sister, Jerbai. 

Apparently, when Jamsetji was making various dispositions on his deathbed, 
he particularly commended to the care of his sons, his sister and Shapurji’s 
mother, Jerbai. Partly due to this very strong affection from Jamsetji and 
partly due to divergencies in character, Shapurji was disliked by Dorabji and 


36 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


also by R.D. Tata, another influential cousin. 

Apart from his natural grief, Shapur must also have felt personally vulnerable 
when the loving protection of his powerful uncle was taken away from him. 
His brother not only said that he was very depressed but also that he almost 
began to despair of his future. This blow must have been even harder to bear, 
coming as it probably did while Shapurji was experiencing such hardships, 
loneliness and toil in the distant tracts and jungles of central and eastern 
India. His fears for his future were certainly not unfounded, as will be 
explained in a later chapter. 

After the death of his father, Dorabji returned to India and took charge of the 
firm, including, of course, the planned iron and steel project. During this time 
there were other prospectors in the field, and the search for minerals became 
highly competitive; hope of success was diminishing. But, soon after this, one 
P.N. Bose had retired from his post in the Geological Survey and had taken 
employment with the Maharajah of Mourbanj. He wrote to Tata Sons & 
Company (according to my father’s letter quoted below, this was probably at 
Father’s instigation) inviting them to go and inspect the iron ore in that state. 
After a difficult train journey, Dorabji Tata, Charles Page Perin, C.M. Weld and 
Shapurji were received in the capital by Bose and the Maharajah, who 
extended to them a most cordial welcome. Dorabji then went on to Calcutta, 
and the rest of the party went to investigate the Mayurbhanj territory. 

The state covers more than four thousand square miles, and at its centre there 
lay a vast tract of densely forested hills, at that time, still largely unexplored. It 
was to this inhospitable land that the Maharajah of the day had invited the 
experts from Tata’s to venture in the summer of 1904. It must have been an 
awe inspiring and daunting undertaking. The country was wild and it had 
remained virtually untouched by successive conquerors. In the jungles, 
elephants and other big game had had the place to themselves almost since 
time began. But this time, the efforts of the Tata explorers were crowned with 
complete success, and all they looked for was discovered in abundance. 

But while enduring the perils, stresses and adversities of the jungles, Shapurji 
succumbed to malaria, as did also the unhappy Mr Weld who, when suffering 
from the disease, was forced to walk thirty miles or so to the nearest railway. 
To add to the distressing symptoms of the disease itself, Shapurji’s servant 
administered too large a dose of the medicine they carried with them, which 


37 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


resulted in the permanent paralysis of his toes. All his life he wore soft boots 
made specially for him, and during the early stages of his sickness he walked 
on crutches for several months. 

This illness was to have a more profound effect on his life than any of his 
experiences hitherto. For it was as a result of his long indisposition that he 
visited the hydropathic spa in Matlock in Derbyshire when he came to 
England in 1905— and that is where he met my mother. But that story will find 
its romantic place in the next chapter. 

Meanwhile, Dorabji worked indefatigably organising the finance, the licenses, 
the setting up of the company, and putting together all the knowledge and 
facts that so many experts in various fields had collected. The great Tata Iron 
and Steel Works were finally created in Jamshedpur, a city thus named to 
honour its great founder. 

But with his uncle dead, his health failing and faced with antagonism from his 
cousins, Dorabji and R.D. Tata, Shapurji was gradually being pushed out of 
the business, and was being largely ignored while the structure of the company 
was taking shape. It was probably to remove him from the centre of activity 
that Dorabji took Shapurji to England in 1905. 

In the letter from Shapurji to an unknown recipient to which I have already 
referred, written probably some time in 1926, he wrote the following about his 
contribution to the Iron and Steel project: 

“Then comes the unjust financial treatment of myself in business 
matters. Regardless of our ability in other directions, J.N.T., with his 
patriarchal guardianship destined us to work in and live for the firm of 
the family, even in one letter describing his two sons and eight nephews 
as ten grand-children of his father under his equal responsibility. Our 
compensation for work and loyalty was fixity of tenure. Sir Dorabji’s 
disregard of these unwritten moral contracts is really an abuse of his 
legal might. 

“The iron scheme was impossible without the part I played, and for 
which I had even asked J.N.T. to cable and cancel the Paris programme 
fixed for me, as the new mining department was not worked by anybody 
with a faith in it. It was predicted to be an exploration ending as an 
exploration. The Central Provinces explorations in parts defined by 
Jamsetji did prove a failure, and when I persevered going further 


38 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


eastward Sir Dorabji wrote scolding me and said that the Tatas were 
nothing to the iron scheme, that the iron scheme was nothing to the 
Tatas beyond keeping faith with Lord George Hamilton for prospecting 
Lohara and adjoining areas: that J.N.T.’s health could not warrant new 
responsibilities and Dorab himself had no desire to assume them. 

“I pacified Sir Dorabji and we reached the Dhondi ores. Then arose 
commercial difficulties of long distance between the three requisite 
minerals. Weld was instructed by Sir Dorabji to wind up and make a full 
report of technical data, leaving commercial propositions to the 
judgement of commercial experts. Weld, too, was eager to return home 
after a long delay. We hurriedly revisited Padampur Lime Fields and 
went over to the coal area and stayed with a colliery manager, Mr 
Sheridan. There, unwary words fell from Mrs Sheridan’s mouth about 
Mr Maclaren’s quarrel with the Bengal Iron Company and how he was 
about to disclose to them a new find of iron ores etc. I pricked up my 
ears, but Weld got angry and impatient at my suggestions of this last 
effort and he felt on that basis he would never be able to leave India. 

“We both wrote our respective views to Bombay. Before Burjorji 
Padshah’s reply reprimanding me arrived, Weld and I had made peace 
and he gave Shrinivas Rao [Weld’s assistant] full technical instructions 
for a hasty survey, and he went away. The Mayurbhanj ores were at last 
located. In Nagpur I got little support to follow this up. Through parties 
that Shrinivas Rao had found in Cuttack, I got Mr P. Bose to write to me, 
inviting business terms in my capacity as holding a power of attorney 
for J.N. Tata. My quality of perseverance was still receiving 
discouragement, but at last, with a promise to Bezonji to make this my 
last effort, I got necessary funds and travelled up to Paripada and 
Mayurbhanj, stayed there four days and settled a good provisional 
agreement on new terms, signing same on the strength of my power of 
attorney for J.N. Tata. 

“This was the birth of the Tata Iron Company, instead of a bunch of 
exploration reports; and these ores were prevented from going to the 
Bengal Iron Company; I was working as a member of the family in the 
family’s firm, in hopes of permanent remunerative interest for the 
future. My actual salary was 50 rupees a month for the period of hardest 


39 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


work and discoveries in regions which had never figured in any Tata 
mind or schemes...” 

Jamsetji thought of Shapur as being persevering, while Dorabji saw this same 
quality in him as troublesome obstinacy. There seems little doubt that 
Shapurji’s obstinacy had extended the search for iron, limestone and coal until 
they were eventually found. Had he been a more obedient and docile 
character, it is quite possible that the Tata Iron and Steel Company would 
never have been formed; it certainly would have been much delayed. There is 
also little doubt that after the minerals had been located and the company was 
being structured, Shapurji received no recognition of his contribution. He was 
sent to England with Sir Dorabji and his wife in 1905, largely to get him away 
from the central organisation in Bombay and Jamshedpur. 

[Editor’s note: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography states, “A further 
reason for his departure was a number of clashes with the British authorities 
in India, first during the search for minerals, and later over the administration 
of the plague relief work, ’’-but note the error in chronology]. 

But it was out of this family rejection that his destiny was to be fulfilled; apart 
from his contribution to Indian freedom and politics in general, I am myself 
profoundly thankful that his European life was imposed on him— how else 
would I have been born? And I love life, am grateful for it, and would not have 
missed it for anything! So let us move on to the next chapter and see how 
Shapurji fared in England after his arrival there in November 1905. 

[Editor’s note: TISCO issued its first shares to the public in August 1907, 
becoming the first corporation to be financed in this way by the people of 
India. The company, now the multinational Tata Steel, provides a history of its 
formation on the website celebrating its centenary; in that account, 
Saklatvala’s role is not accorded the same importance as that given by him in 
the letter above. Both accounts were written in retrospect and to serve a 
particular purpose.] 


40 



CHAPTER 4 


The Sun Veers to the West 

Arrival in England in 1905 for medical treatment. Early 
political interest in trade union and socialist meetings. 
Marriage to Sarah (Sehri) Marsh, 1907. Sarah’s early life. 


Thus it was that Shapurji first came to England in November 1905, 
accompanied by Dorabji and Mehrbai, Dorab’s wife. He was broken in health, 
depressed by his uncle’s death the previous year, and apprehensive about his 
future prospects, which were now solely in the command of his antagonistic 
cousin, who was, since Jamsetji’s death, in full control of all the family 
business projects, including the development of the Iron and Steel Company 
to which Shapurji had contributed so much. London in a foggy November can 
have done little to dispel his gloom 

Spitam Cama wrote that he saw Shapur on his third day in England, and 
described him as looking very ill and worn, and still walking on crutches. 

The three of them stayed only a few days in London and then they all went to 
Matlock in Derbyshire, to Smedley’s Hydrotherapy Institution. Around the 
time of their visit, the Matlock Guardian printed the following description of 
this beautiful part of England: 

“Mr Ruskin wrote of the Matlock district in the highest terms of 
eulogium. The greatest of England’s connoisseurs of art gave Matlock 
scenery precedence over all the rest of the world. He says: ‘Learned 
Traveller, gentle and simple... think of what this little piece of mid- 
England has brought into so narrow a compass of all that should be 
most precious to you. In its very minuteness it is the most educational of 
all the districts of beautiful landscapes known to me. When Nature had 
completed Switzerland, there was left one beautiful fragment for which 
she had no further use in that country; so she set it in Derbyshire, amid 
a framework of romantic hills, and in time it came to be called The Gem 
Of The Peak. That gem is Matlock.’” 

The health-giving springs in the area had been commercialised and flourished 


41 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


as early as the year 1698. When the British aristocracy were cut off from the 
continent, first by the French Revolution and then by the Napoleonic Wars, 
they flocked to the watering places in England, and Matlock became a 
fashionable resort. With the introduction of the railways and a station in 
Matlock, the popularity of the springs increased yet again. There were some 
five or six large hydros in Matlock at that time, but the most important one 
was undoubtedly Smedley’s, built in 1853 and accommodating more than two 
hundred and fifty guests. A local textile manufacturer, John Smedley, had 
bought and developed the grand and imposing house on Matlock Bank, 
standing high on the rim of the valley in which the town lies; there he started 
his hydro. He advertised it thus: 

“Winter residence, with all the advantages of English home comforts 
and proximity to relatives and friends, at Smedley’s Institution, Matlock 
Bank, near Matlock Bridge Station, Derbyshire; with or without the 
peculiar Mild Hydropathic treatment. Conducted by W.B. Hunter MD 
CM Glas. Extensive saloons, lofty and well ventilated bedrooms, all kept 
at summer temperature night and day, without draughts. Charges 
moderate.” 



Photo: Smedley’s Hydro, Matlock 

It was to this idyllic spot that our three “learned travellers, gentle and simple,” 
arrived. Dorabji and Mehrbai stayed only for a short while, there being 


42 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


nothing specifically wrong with them; but Shapurji, still suffering from 
malaria and from the poisoning resulting from the wrong dosage of his 
medicine, stayed on until the following June. Whether it was the result of the 
“peculiar Mild Hydropathic treatment,” the rest after recent toil or his 
romance with my mother, no one can tell, but apparently all his physical 
ailments were cured by his stay in Smedley’s Hydro. 

Here, once again, I must interrupt Shapurji’s narrative and introduce you to 
the girl who was to become his wife and the loving and devoted mother to us 
five children. For I have reached the point in my story when the two of them 
are about to meet. 

It was such an unlikely encounter that even now, years after the courtship, the 
marriage, the parenthood and their death, I still hold my breath as I write 
about it, for fear that this strange duo might after all miss each other and 
negate my own life and that of my brothers and sister. 

I often think how minuscule is a human creature, and how minute a portion of 
the surface of the universe each one of us covers; so what a miracle it was that 
these two tiny and insignificant specks of life should find themselves at exactly 
the same spot on the earth’s crust and at exactly the same moment in time. For 
he was born in the East, she in the West; he grew up in affluence, and she in 
humble poverty; he had an academic education, while she attended a one- 
roomed village school only until she was thirteen; it is true that he had heard 
all about Matlock, but I doubt if she knew very much about Bombay. (In the 
village school, geography was taught only to the boys, while the girls bent 
diligently over their needlework). But thankfully they did meet, and I and a 
clan spanning three more generations are here on earth to prove and celebrate 
the fact. 

Above Matlock looms Riber Castle; it is only a mock castle, but its imitative 
mediaeval shape dominates the surroundings, as it stands on a height which 
makes it a familiar landmark in Matlock and in the little village of Tansley, two 
miles to the east 

During my mother’s childhood Tansley boasted one shop, one church, one 
chapel, one school (which consisted of one classroom) and two pubs, one in 
the heart of the village, called the Gate, and one on the edge of the village that 
is called, I think, the Green Dragon. [Editor’s note: Tansley’s two pubs are 
currently called the Tavern and the Royal Oak. There is however, a Gate in 


43 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Matlock]. All these amenities and some few houses are built on the slopes of 
the moor side, leading southward and upward off the road to the height of the 
moors. There at the top of the village, and a little remote from it, was a cottage 
called Foxholes, surrounded by moorland, with a few modest grey stone 
dwellings scattered around fairly close by; the fields are upholstered with 
cushions of grass growing above underground springs. 

It was here to this cottage that a young quarryman, Harry Marsh, took his 
bride Annie Jane, in 1884; this was just about the time that the young 
Shapurji, four and a half thousand miles away, was eagerly looking forward to 
celebrating his tenth birthday. 

Four years later, on the 10th September 1888, Harry and Annie Jane 
welcomed to the world their third daughter and fourth child. She was baptised 
Sarah Elizabeth but was always called Sally. 

By 1904 the couple had twelve children, ten of them daughters. I remember 
my grandma as a very quiet, staid and composed character, very puritanical 
and correct. But she obviously had her lighter moments, for she once confided 
in a friend that her Harry had only to hang his trousers on the bedpost and she 
fell for another baby. 



Photo: Foxholes, Tansley, Derbyshire 

Strangely enough it was not Annie Jane who lost her health creating this 
minor baby-boom, but the formerly robust Harry. After only a few years of 
marriage he contracted rheumatic fever and was a semi-invalid for most of his 
life thereafter. For a few years he was able to work again in the stone quarries, 
spasmodically, but for many years he was unable to work at all. 


44 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Annie Jane managed to provide for the family, and all the children had to 
participate in running the household. Sally was baking all their bread by the 
time she was seven; and when the doctor came to deliver yet another baby, he 
was surprised to smell bread baking when he knew the lady of the house was 
hors de combat on her bed of labour upstairs. When he saw the scrawny little 
waif called Sally competently acting as the family baker, he took her in his 
horse and carriage back to his house, where his wife gave her a slice of cake 
and a glass of milk. This spontaneous kindness so impressed Sally that she 
talked of it to me even when she was in her eighties; and, remembering her 
own delight, she was always ready to give sweets or fruit or toys as unexpected 
gifts to children she met casually, all through her long life. 

The Marsh sisters were all sent out on the moors in the autumn by four o’clock 
in the morning to make sure of a good harvest of the bilberries which were so 
abundant on the hillside. Annie Jane made jam with the free crop and walked 
the two miles or so into Matlock and sold it to Smedley’s Hydro; in return, 
apart from the cash, she also received generous basins of dripping [meat fat], 
which was one of the mainstays of the family diet. She also sold them cakes 
and butter made from the milk of their one cow, and at one time took fish 
round to sell in a little pony and trap. They grew their own vegetables, Harry 
digging trenches, one child behind him scattering manure into the trench, 
another followed with the potatoes or the seed and a third would fill it in with 
the freshly dug earth. 

For all their poverty and meagre way of life they were a really joyful family, the 
parents loving towards each other and towards the children, and the children 
loving their parents and each other. And although the babies arrived in quick 
succession, there was general rejoicing at each birth. The older children took 
care of the smaller ones. When Sally was ten, she was put in charge of the 
latest arrival when the baby was a few months old. Of course there were about 
four children to a bed, and one night the baby, Clara, was crying; still half 
asleep, Sally lay and patted the infant and sang, ‘Come to the Saviour, come to 
the Lord,’ without opening her eyes. The baby continued to howl. At last, 
Father Harry stood in the doorway, candle held aloft at the end of a night- 
shirt-clad arm. “Sally, the baby’s cryin’!” Upon investigation, poor little baby 
Clara was found to be howling under the bed, while sleepy Sally was 
comforting the pillow! 


45 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Their pleasures were simple. All the brood belonged to the Band of Hope and 
signed the Pledge almost as soon as they could write. My mother often 
hummed the song “My drink is water bright, water bright, water bright, my 
drink is water bright from the crystal stream.” (When my eldest brother was a 
general practitioner he once said to one of his patients, “What you need is 
plenty of water bright— drink as much of it as you can.” The poor bewildered 
patient returned in a few days and said she had asked all the chemists in town 
and none of them had ever heard of water bright!) They sang and recited at 
Band of Hope concerts, and went on Sunday school outings. 

Their sabbaths were kept intolerably holy (well, it would have been intolerable 
for me, but they accepted it all with joyous grace apparently). Sunday 
mornings were spent in chapel, singing Wesleyan hymns, and in the 
afternoons they all trouped off to Sunday school. In the evenings Harry would 
gather his brood about him and sing to them in a rich baritone; my Aunty 
Hannah, child number six, always said she enjoyed listening to Paul Robeson 
because “he sounds like my Dad.” How we daughters flatter our fathers— I 
dare say I am guilty of it too as I write! 

In spite of all the affection, or perhaps because of it, the family was strictly 
brought up. Annie Jane, understandably in view of her fecundity and fiscal 
responsibilities, could be very sharp tongued. And while it was Harry’s pride 
that he had brought up twelve “childer” and never raised his hand to one of 
them, he certainly raised his voice from time to time. When Sally was about 
sixteen she went for an innocent evening stroll with a lad called Tom Twigg. 
She was met at home by an irate Father. He asked menacingly, “’ast a bin aht 
wi’ Tom Twigg?” and when Sally acknowledged that she had, he roared 
between clenched teeth, his voice rising to a high-pitched crescendo, “Well, 
tha’s let on a bonny booger now, so ’elp my boody liver if tha’ ’asna!” 
Apparently, he and Mr Twigg, senior, had fallen out over the price of a cow. 
Sally crept to bed, and any romance with Tom Twigg was nipped in the bud. 
More than seventy years later, when I was negotiating with the Derbyshire 
County Council for the planting of Mother’s memorial trees, one of the letters 
was signed by a Tom Twigg; I wrote and told him that had our grandfathers 
not fallen out over the sale of a cow, we might have been brother and sister! 

At thirteen Sally left school and went to take care of a publican’s baby. She had 
to report at six in the morning; she washed the long hall floor and lit the fires 


46 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


and then took over the baby. She did all the cleaning of the private dwelling 
(not the pub itself), and for this she was able to take home and give to her 
parents half-a-crown a week. 

Sally blossomed in the unfamiliarly lavish surroundings; she was a rarely 
beautiful girl, hardworking and of a very gentle and graceful nature, and she 
soon graduated to the dining room, where she worked as a waitress. The hours 
were long and the work was hard, but she was used to that. She enjoyed new 
friendships and the companionship of a large staff, and thought herself lucky 
to be there. Whereas at home her diet had been mainly vegetables and bread- 
and-dripping or bread-and-treacle, in the hydro she was serving a profusion of 
delicacies, and she had her choice of the menus when the guests had finished 
their meals. 

Sally learned a little basic French from the menus; for although she had had 
little formal education, Sally had a brisk and creative mind, which was to make 
her a supportive, congenial and adaptable partner for Shapurji later on in my 
story. Varied entertainments were provided for the guests and, although Sally 
obviously could not participate, she enjoyed seeing the dances, the balls, the 
concerts and tableaux-vivants as well as the sessions of cards and other games. 
How stimulating all this must have been after the quiet and confined life in 
Tansley! 



Photo: Smedley’s Drawing Room 

The dining room was spacious, with pillared archways on either side, and it 


47 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


served as a ballroom or concert hall after dinner had been served and the huge 
table that ran down the centre of the room had been removed. There were also 
small tables set in the window alcoves; and it was at one of these that Dorabji, 
Mehrbai and Shapurji sat down to dine. They arrived in November 1905, but it 
was not until March 1906 that he found the opportunity and the courage to 
speak to Sally at last. 

When, after my father’s death, my brother Beram intended writing his 
biography, my mother wrote the following notes which will tell the story of the 
courtship better than I can: 

“[Shapurji] saw me first on his birthday, March 28th 1906. He asked 
Maria Marsh who I was. She told him I was her cousin, so he asked her 
to call me over to his table and introduce me to him; which she did. 
With his beard, I took him for an old man. He gave me flowers almost 
every day and asked me to go for walks. I was too frightened to do so, 
but I kept saying I would just to satisfy him for the time being. 
Whenever I went out he would walk behind me. 

“One afternoon I went to Matlock Bath by bus; when I offered my fare, 
the conductor said a gentleman behind had paid. I gave a blind man a 
penny in the afternoon without knowing Daddy was following; 
afterwards he told me that he had given the blind man two shillings and 
told him what a lucky man he was as he had been given a penny by the 
sweetest girl in the world. 

“One day I got a note from a shoe shop... would I go in and try on some 
shoes. There was a note inside a special pair of shoes which I was to try 
on from him saying that he hoped to be able to buy all my shoes from 
now on. I happened to say I would like a bicycle, so he bought one and 
pretended to give away raffle tickets to several people and I was given 
the ‘winning ticket.’ 


48 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: Shapurji Saklatvala 

“The day he left the Hydro, he asked me to see him off on the 2.19 train. 
I said yes but had no intention of going. My friend and I went out in the 
afternoon. When we returned we got a phone message from Daddy to 
say he was on Matlock Bath station and he intended to remain there 
however long it was until I went to see him. I went at nine o’clock at 
night and said good-bye to him. 

“He wrote to me twice a day after he went away. He came one Sunday 
for the day. I saw him for a few minutes; he tried to hold my arm when 
we were walking; I told him not to do that or people might think we 
were engaged. This was always a joke in later years. Then he came to 
Tansley for my eighteenth birthday. He saw Dad and Mother and he got 
them on his side. We all went in a charabanc to the Peveril of the Peak 
Hotel. After lunch Daddy [Shapurji] said, ‘Come for a walk in the 
garden.’ I said ‘No.’ He said, ‘It’s all right, Dad is coming too,’ We had 
reached the rose garden when Dad said, ‘Sally, I have a birthday present 
for you.’ And then Daddy said he was the present— imagine my 
disappointment. 

“From then on he considered we were engaged, but I only accepted the 
engagement ring on November 6th (the date was in the ring, which I 


49 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


lost). This was when I came to London to see his mother and his brother 
Sorab. She stayed in England until the following summer and most of 
the time she was at Smedley’s. She then went to America, where she 
died on November 23rd 1907...” 

Quite early in the courtship, Shapurji changed Sally’s name to Sehri, a word of 
his own invention, conjured from Sarah and Sally; this was because ‘Sally’ was 
very similar to a swear-word in his language, Gujarati. Her parents and sisters 
always continued to call her Sally, but in our home, socially and officially, she 
went by the new name of Sehri (pronounced like ‘Mary’). 

So it seems that Shapurji pursued the shyly elusive Sally with the same dogged 
persistence and imagination with which he had recently sought out the iron 
ore in the Indian jungles. Once again, his obstinacy paid off. They were 
married on August 14th 1907 in the Parish Church of St Thomas, Moorside, 
Oldham. The Marsh family had moved from Tansley in the hope of finding 
more lucrative employment in Oldham for all the sisters, now growing up and 
many of them now of an age to earn their own living. 

Shapurji’s mother was staying still in Smedley’s, where she got to know Sally 
well, and a bond of affection was forged between these two ladies both so 
loved by Shapurji. 

Sadly, although my mother treasured all my father’s letters, when he died she 
placed them all in his coffin with him, together with her wedding shoes which 
he had sentimentally kept for all those years. In a way it is better that they 
have been lost to us, for they must have been intimate and personal, and no 
biography should provide an excuse for usurping the privacy of individuals, 
even after their death. But I have to confess that, were they available, I would 
have read them with affectionate interest. 

But not all Saklatvala’s time in Matlock had been spent in wilful dalliance. It 
seems that from almost the first day of his arrival in Matlock he involved 
himself in political and trade union affairs. This is recorded by one Mrs 
Richards, writing to my brother in 1937. She had kept a glass and china shop 
opposite the Hydro, and apparently Father used to go in there and talk to her. 
No doubt he must have found the regimen at the Hydro pretty boring, and for 
the first few weeks at least, being still on crutches, he probably could not move 
very far afield. She writes: 

“[...Saklatvala] came in one day to make some small purchases. During 


50 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


his conversation then and on subsequent occasions I soon discovered he 
was very interested in politics, at that time, socialistic. Your Father 
found I was interested and he would quite often come into the shop... 
and talk long and earnestly of the injustices meted out to the working 
classes... His whole thought and actions were how to get people 
interested in helping to bring about a better life and improved 
conditions for the workers. If one’s thoughts were totally opposite to 
those of your Father, his sincerity and deep feeling for the cause he held 
so dear could not leave one unaffected. 

“About this time... he was recovering from a severe illness and bodily he 
was very frail, but so great mentally. I remember on his birthday, 28th 
March 1906, he came into the shop and said he was going to have a 
birthday party! And would I prepare it? I readily consented and on my 
asking how many were coming, he said, much to his own amusement, 
‘You and I!’ [This was the day on which he first spoke to Sally Marsh and 
he must have been in a happy and jocular mood!] 

“I well recollect on that day he was feeling very strongly the indifference 
shown towards the working people and was troubled that those who 
held his convictions and were in power appeared to move so slowly or 
not at all. [At this stage, he was still a Liberal.] I was always a very ready 
and interested listener and after some long talk upon these subjects he 
would say he felt better for having got them off his chest! 

“He expressed a wish to pay a visit to the potteries and I accompanied 
him as was his wish. Having to change trains at Derby we went to see 
the Crown Derby Works. He enjoyed seeing the wonderful and beautiful 
pottery made. On continuing our journey to Stoke-on-Trent, the train 
passed through a very heavy snowstorm, which, I believe, was the first 
snow your Father had seen... he went to London. From there I received 
from him long letters... still on the theme of politics and urging me to do 
what I could in an endeavour to bring others along and get them 
interested in helping to better the lives and conditions of my own class. 
“The next I heard of your Father, he was in Oldham; he wrote telling me 
that he and your Mother were to be married and would my husband be 
his best man. Unfortunately my husband was away in Scotland. Your 
Mother and Father came to stay with us with a wee babe and if you are 


51 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


their eldest son, you were that babe. The last time I saw your Father was 
about two years ago [1935], when he came to Nottingham to speak. I 
would like to say my life has been made the richer for having known so 
great a man and I am quite sure there are many others who can say the 
same. In conclusion may I quote these words which your Father wrote 
in a book of mine on January 20th 1906: ‘Be strong! Be good! Be pure! 
The right only shall endure.”’ 

This letter definitely makes it plain that almost as soon as he had arrived in 
England, he was already committed to a belief in liberal politics; the politics of 
his family and of his social milieu had always been liberal. In London he gave 
the National Liberal Club as his address, but it would seem that he had already 
advanced far along the road of compassionate socialism as early as 1905. 
There is also among my brother Beram’s letters, one from J.R. Clynes, MP and 
president of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, dated 2nd 
March, 1937, in which he says: 

“I attended a number of meetings under the auspices of the above Union 
held in Matlock and one or two adjacent places during 1907. We, of 
course, spoke not only on Trade Union and Industrial matters, but dealt 
with political questions from the socialist standpoint. Your Father 
attended these meetings, and in due course he asked me to arrange a 
talk with him. We had very pleasant conversations, and, as I learned 
later, he gave me some credit for turning his views in the socialist 
direction...” 

However, I think that the claim that he had turned my father’s views in the 
socialist direction is really contradicted by Mrs Richard’s letter, which makes 
it quite clear that Shapurji held virtually socialist views as early as 1905; in any 
case, he must have been moving very close to socialism to have been attending 
the meetings at which he met Clynes. Spitam Cama also said that Shapurji 
knew Keir Hardie well, “...was quite a pal of his,” but there is no indication of 
the date of their meeting. 

The Matlock newspapers of the day report frequent Liberal Party meetings 
which were enthusiastically attended, often to over-flowing. I feel safe in 
assuming that Shapurji must have attended some of these. 


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Photo: 730 Holloway Road, London 

[Editor’s note: Keir Hardie, also a former Liberal, was a founder member of 
the Independent Labour Party in 1893, and one of the first two Labour MPs 
elected to parliament in 1900]. 

After marrying, Shapurji and Sally came to London, where they found rooms 
at 730 Holloway Road. It was now that Shapurji’s political involvement really 
began. 


53 




CHAPTER 5 


The Quest for a Political Solution 

Joining the Socialist Party, the Clarion Club and the 
Independent Labour Party. His mother’s death in 1907. 
Association with Bipin Chandra Pal, Arthur Field, J.R. 
Clynes and Ramsay MacDonald. Brief return to Bombay in 
1912. Support of the suffragette movement and conscientious 
objectors to war. Belief in communism and the influence of 
the 1917 revolution in Russia. 


By the time he was married, Shapurji had stopped working for Tata’s and was 
on the staff of British Westinghouse Electrical and Manufacturing Company, 
having, for the moment at least, given up the unequal struggle between 
himself and Dorabji. He also joined Lincoln’s Inn and intended to become a 
barrister, a project that had been in his mind ever since his arrival in England. 
But at some point he gave up that idea, my mother said later, because he felt 
that with his political views he would probably never be tolerated in the legal 
profession. 

As soon as he had arrived in England, he gave the National Liberal Club in 
Whitehall, London as his address, and seemed to be following in the tradition 
of his family in the political sphere. His Uncle Jamsetji had greatly admired 
John Bright, Gladstone and Lord Morley, and there is little doubt that in this, 
as in so many other important issues, Shapurji was profoundly influenced by 
the grand old man of the family. But he obviously soon became disillusioned 
with the Liberal Party, for they did not seem to him to be doing enough for the 
working people. 

[Editor’s note: Lord Morley, Secretary of State for India between 1905 and 
1910, was a prominent Liberal. Shapurji apparently had a vigorous argument 
with him in the NLC on the subject of India.] 

For Shapurji it was not sufficient merely to bestow benefits upon the workers, 
he believed that the power of government had to be transferred into their 
hands; so, although he did not actually resign from the Liberals until 1910, he 


54 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


became involved with the socialist movement almost as soon as he arrived in 
England. Certainly from 1907 he took an active part in the Social Democratic 
Federation (which later became the British Socialist Party) in East Finchley; 
this was a vigorous and expanding branch and, politically, I think this was a 
time of great optimism for him. 

Also at East Finchley there was a mock parliament, and Shapurji was a zealous 
frequenter of all their sessions. My mother went with him quite often; it was 
there that she first heard Bernard Shaw speak and, of course, made his 
acquaintance: she never missed a production of Shaw’s plays, and my older 
sister was called Candida in his honour. 

Shapurji gave his active support to the suffragette movement from this time, 
and knew Sylvia Pankhurst well; he joined in their demonstration that 
marched to Hyde Park in 1908. He was also active in the India Reform Group. 
No doubt his eloquence and sincerity were already being noticed in all these 
organisations. 

Sometime in 1907, Shapurji’s boon companion from his school and college 
days, Kaikoo Mehta (eldest son of Sir Phirozeshah Mehta, who had been such 
a friend of Jamsetji) came to work in the office of Tata in London. Kaikoo was 
an affectionate friend to all the family, and was invariably in the house at, or 
soon after, the birth of each one of us. We all loved him dearly, as he was much 
more lighthearted than my father. It was with him that we romped and fooled 
around when we were small, whereas my father was always somewhat stern 
and aloof; and it was Kaikoo who played tennis and cricket with us as we grew 
older. He was very handsome with a curling, waxed moustache and he was 
always jolly and laughing. He was very fond of Mother and always said that 
Father was lucky to have found her before he did! We always teased my 
mother about this later on; but of course, it always remained a very proper, 
decorous friendship which we all enjoyed. 

Kaikoo had a period cottage in St John’s Wood which to all of us was like a 
doll’s house, and we loved to visit him there. His arrival in London was a great 
comfort and support to Shapurji at a time when he found himself cut off from 
the family for the first time. 

My grandmother, Jerbai Saklatvala, sailed to America that summer to visit her 
sons, Phirozeshah and Beram. She died in New York on the 23rd November 
1907, I think as a result of anaesthetic poisoning during a minor operation. 


55 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Perhaps because her brother Jamsetji was buried in Brookwood, or perhaps it 
was Shapurji’s wish, her body was sent to England and she was also interred in 
the Parsi burial ground there, in a grave immediately in front of Jamsetji’s 
mausoleum. 

Shapurji was greatly saddened and depressed by her death, and he and Sehri 
took a furnished cottage in Brookwood to be near his mother’s grave. My 
eldest brother, Dorab, was born there. It was there, too, that the doctor 
introduced a Scottish lady, Mrs Gray, to the household as a midwife and nurse. 
Mrs Gray remained a close friend to all of us, and I was with her when she died 
in her nineties. She attended at the birth of three of my mother’s five children. 
(She could not be with her in Manchester because she had a husband and son 
of her own to look after.) 

Shapurji’s parents had both accepted Sehri as a welcome daughter-in-law; but 
when she produced a son (alas, too late to make Grandma happy), Granddad 
Saklatvala was overjoyed and declared of the new infant, “This is the Dorabji 
Saklatvala of the future!” He showered my mother with gifts and sang her 
praises and generally rejoiced at the birth. After this, Dorabji spent much of 
his time in England, mostly in Manchester, where he was in business buying 
and selling mill machinery; consequently, he saw a great deal of the older 
children. It was probably one of the happiest periods in his life, after all the 
dissensions within the family. 

In the spring of 1909 Shapurji had to leave British Westinghouse. It seems 
that they had engaged him in the hope of doing business with Tata’s through 
his personal connections, not knowing, of course, that his personal relations 
could well have the opposite effect! He joined a firm of consultant engineers in 
Manchester and the family, now three in number, moved to Ashton-upon- 
Mersey. 

My sister Candida was born there on my mother’s twenty-first birthday, 1909. 
Kaikoo Mehta came to stay to join in the family jollifications. In those days, a 
mother was not allowed any solid food for days after the birth and was kept 
strictly in bed for a couple of weeks. Father, terrified of anything going wrong, 
insisted on obeying the doctor’s orders; but Kaikoo used to sneak bread and 
butter and cups of tea upstairs for Sehri, who was fit as a flea and ravenously 
hungry. 

In Manchester, Shapurji joined the Clarion Club; he attended their weekly 


56 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


meetings with unfailing regularity and spoke there on many occasions. Bipin 
Chandra Pal, a great Indian orator and fighter for Indian freedom, also 
addressed meetings there. He was, of course, already acquainted with my 
father, and in this period they saw much of one another. My parents shared 
their house with another Indian couple, Mr and Mrs Chaman Lai, who also 
had young children. This meant that Sehri was able to accompany Shapur on 
many of his political meetings, which she greatly enjoyed, and no doubt she 
learned a good deal from listening to and meeting the many political figures 
who participated in them. While she, like her father, was always a Liberal, she 
nevertheless always gave her husband her wholehearted support in all his 
political activities, even when his politics were moving at a swifter pace than 
those of the Liberal Party. 

In the early nineteen hundreds there was an eccentric English socialist called 
Arthur Field, who devoted much of his time to matters oriental, particularly 
the Arab cause. He was a frequent and vociferous visitor to our house and was 
very much a family friend. Field said of this period: 

“Having come in contact with Manchester Labour Organisations 
including the Clarion Movement, from 1909 we may suppose that 
[Saklatvala] was trying to influence them, as he had tried to influence 
the Liberals previously, to take up the matter of organising the workers 
of India and voicing their claims to justice in the English Labour Circles. 
In 1911, he addressed to leading men of the Trades Union Congress and 
the Labour Representation Committee a document outlining the desired 
activity. He told me the response was disappointing and disillusioning.” 
It seems he was not the only socialist to be critical of the labour movement. 
When George Bernard Shaw attended the Labour Party Conference in 1909, 
he disapproved of the members singing at such an event; when they burst into 
Auld Lang Syne at the end, he voiced his disgust thus: “When Moses received 
the Tablets of the Law, he did not sing ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ by way of 
acknowledgment! ” 

Shapurji also attended regularly the sessions of the County Forum held in 
Cromford Court, Manchester. There he was known as a very earnest and 
considerable debater with pronounced socialist ideas. One of the members 
wrote of this time: “I remember his opening a debate and bringing his wife 
with him. It created some little interest, as unusual things and persons always 


57 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


do. The debate went well and everyone was congratulatory, even his 
opponents.” 

During his period in Manchester Saklatvala joined the Independent Labour 
Party. He frequently saw J.R. Clynes and also met Ramsay MacDonald. While 
he realised that MacDonald was an astute and educated man, he never felt he 
was the right person for the leadership of the labour movement; this first 
impression was confirmed in later years when he was a member of parliament. 
Saklatvala favoured Clynes rather than MacDonald for the leadership of the 
Labour Party in 1911, but MacDonald won the day by quite a slender majority. 
How different might have been the history of the Labour Party had Clynes 
instead of MacDonald become Prime Minister. 

[Editor’s note: At that the time the Independent Labour Party was the means 
for individuals to became members of the Labour Party, which itself was a 
federal organisation of trade unions and societies]. 

For much of his life in England, Shapurji came under Scotland Yard 
surveillance, but unfortunately I cannot have sight of his dossier until seventy 
years after his death— by which time I shall be beyond reading it. I am 
therefore unable to state precisely when this surveillance began. But a letter 
from one of the Party members, with whom my father stayed in Glasgow, said 
that detectives were at Shapurji’s heels within a very short time of his arrival 
in England; though there is no evidence of any activities in India or in the very 
early months in England that would warrant such suspicion by the authorities. 
But certainly, very early in his political involvement he was followed by a 
detective; in a way, it flattered him and gave him importance; he certainly 
never seemed to resent it. 

Once, when it was pouring with rain and he went into a restaurant for lunch, 
he went out and invited the detective to come inside out of the rain; he said he 
knew he was there and that he was only doing his job, so why get wet? He 
seems, anyway, always to have proclaimed his political beliefs as loudly and as 
widely as he knew how, and there was certainly nothing clandestine about his 
activities; it seems, therefore, to have been something of a waste of money to 
have him so meticulously scrutinised. Once, when he was to address a meeting 
in a part of London unfamiliar to him, he had forgotten the address of the hall; 
he went into the local police station and asked them if they could tell him 
where Saklatvala was scheduled to speak that night, and they at once told him! 


58 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


This no doubt appealed to his sense of humour, for he related it as a joke 
during the meeting when he got there. 

Some time in 1911, thanks largely to the intervention of his cousin Ratanji, 
arrangements were being made for him to rejoin Tata’s in India. But his father 
wrote to him and warned him that he was likely to be arrested if he returned 
home. So it seems that he was already regarded by the British government as a 
threat to their continuing dominance over India; for at that time, the thought 
of freeing India from the tyranny of British rule was considered to be 
dangerous sedition. Now, of course, no one, even to the right of the Tory Party, 
would consider it right or desirable to resume the roles of Empire builders and 
subjugate other countries. So Father’s philosophy, condemned as 
revolutionary and a threat to peace and stability, was merely ahead of his 
generation. It took thirty years for British politicians to catch up with him. 
Like all men who promote good ideas too early, he paid the price of their 
backwardness and intolerance; and, alas, he did not live long enough to be 
able to say, “I told you so!” 

However, in May 1912, when the opportunity finally came for him to go back 
to India, he and all the family went to Bombay, fully intending to settle there. 
He insisted on chancing arrest and said he would not give in to intimidation. 
He took no active part in politics while he was India then, as far as I know, but 
at the end of about a year, he was again sent back to England, presumably by 
Dorabji as head of the firm. (See also Chapter 6). 

By the time they got back to London from India in 1913, his cousin Ratan had 
purchased a palatial residence in Twickenham called York House. It is at 
present the town hall. It was surrounded by beautiful gardens, which are now 
a public park. Ratan built an indoor swimming pool and lived there in 
considerable style and luxury. Ratan and Shapur had always been good friends 
and were as affectionate as brothers, and it was to York House that the family 
repaired on their return to England. 


59 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: York House, Twickenham 

Both Ratanji and Dorabji had been knighted by this time and were in the 
social whirl of London life, which Shapurji watched with some amusement 
from the sidelines. At this time, he worked as personal assistant to Ratanji and 
remained in this position until Ratan’s death in 1918, working mostly at York 
House, but also in the offices of Tata Ltd in London. 

During this period, Shapurji was content to be once again within the fold of his 
family, and enjoyed the close links with his cousin. Ratanji had no children of 
his own and made a big fuss of Shapur’s increasing brood. He often 
encouraged them to entertain him with songs and recitations, and they 
enjoyed playing in the spacious gardens of York House; especially the 
Japanese garden, with its miniature trees and slender bridge over a little 
stream. 

Shapurji found a suitable house at 51 Lebanon Park, close to York House, and 
the family took up residence there late in 1913. My brother Kaikoo (named 
after Kaikoo Mehta, of course) and I were both born there in 1915 and 1919 
respectively. Mrs Gray presided at both births. I might mention here that my 
father was before his time in many things, and he apparently wanted to be 
present when Kaikoo was born. Mrs Gray was scandalised at such a 
proposition and threatened to walk out and abandon her patient when the 
birth was imminent if Father persisted in remaining in the bedroom. This was 
one occasion when my father had, perforce, to yield— and to a woman, too! 
Nurse won the day, and he was not allowed to witness the birth as he had so 
wished to do. 

In early 1914 my father went alone on a short visit to India, returning in April. 


60 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Mother went to Marseilles to meet him, and they had a week together in Paris. 
Father bought Mummy the latest thing in hobble skirts from a fashionable 
shop in Paris and she felt she was being outrageously daring wearing it in the 
demure streets of Twickenham. I have a picture of them taken on the Eiffel 
Tower during that visit; they obviously had enormous fun together that week, 
alone and far from all cares, domestic and political. Although the Great War 
was so near, no one seemed to be much aware of the impending sorrows. 



Photo: 51 Lebanon Park, Twickenham 

On his return to Twickenham, Shapurji added the conscientious objectors to 
his political causes, and groups of them in Twickenham used to meet in each 
others’ houses. He continued his association with the suffragette movement, 
and also attended the meetings of the Independent Labour Party at this time, 
having joined the ILP in Manchester in 1909. He also went to Fabian Society 
meetings. 

Herbert Bryan, a correspondent for the Daily Herald, remembered that he first 
saw ‘Sak’ at the City of London branch of the ILP in about 1915 in Prince 
Henry Room, Fleet Street. He recalls: 

“On that occasion Sak was not one of the speakers, but he spoke in the 
discussion from the back of the hall. I did not know who he was then, 
but I remember being impressed by his striking and original way of 
speaking... [He] soon became active in the City branch, both in branch 
and public meetings. Then his reputation began to spread throughout 
the London movement and afterwards, throughout the country, so that 
he soon began to receive many requests to fulfil speaking engagements 
from London and provincial branches.” 

Quite late in the War Shapurji did receive call-up papers, but the authorities 

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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


must have had second thoughts, suspecting that he might be more trouble 
than he was worth, because I think it was withdrawn. I have not verified this, 
but that is the impression I had from my mother; but she was talking to me 
some fifty years after the event. Certainly he never enlisted and, as far as I 
know, never appeared before any tribunal. 

The 1917 Revolution in Russia had a profound effect and influence on 
Shapurji’s political outlook. He saw the predominantly peasant population of 
Russia as being similar to the Indian population, and became convinced that 
the solution that the USSR had found to combat the poverty and illiteracy of 
her masses could be effective in India also. He became totally and irrevocably 
convinced that communism was the only system that could relieve the 
sufferings and injustices of the poor in all countries. It might deprive a very 
few of the population from expressing intellectual convictions, but at least it 
would ensure that the other downtrodden numberless masses would be fed, 
housed and educated, and would have a voice in the government of the land. 
Saklatvala visited the USSR in 1923, in 1927 and again in 1934, when he 
toured and lectured extensively, giving his attention particularly to Samarkand 
and the Eastern areas that had, he felt, perhaps the greatest affinity with India, 
and he remained steadfast in his belief in communism. Once, when he was 
addressing a meeting of the International Club of Glasgow University, he 
thrilled his audience with an impassioned lecture on how the subjected races 
of Soviet Asia had freed themselves, and on the way home, he explained to his 
host how he had made up his mind never to admit even the tiniest criticisms of 
the Soviet Union because that, for him, “was like a sin against the Holy 
Ghost!” 

Many enemies of communism are of the view that those who embrace it are 
necessarily unpatriotic to Great Britain. This is not so. Father was convinced 
that communism would lead to the happiness of all people and nations. He 
wished all nations well. To love one’s country does not necessarily entail 
setting it above other countries; bringing happiness to all peoples does not 
diminish the well-being one brings to one’s own. To love humanity in toto 
does not mean that one loves one country less than another. 

But if the people of each land are encouraged by a false sense of patriotism to 
think that their particular country must be stronger and more dominant than 
all the others, we are left with an arms race, and often with an armed contest, 


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to prove the supremacy of each over the other. Sabre-rattling is really not a 
manifestation of love of one’s country. Patriotism not only entails feeling love 
for members of the government and the upper crust, one has to love the 
workers and unemployed too, for they are all equally members of their country 
and society. 

Shapurji Saklatvala assuredly loved and worked tirelessly for the working 
people of Britain as he worked strenuously and unceasingly for the good of 
working people everywhere. So, lest anyone should think that Father did not 
love England, let me say at once that they are wrong. He once said that India 
was his mother-country, but that England was the mother-country of his 
children. 

Certainly he had a devotion to England, but he also loved all men and women 
in other lands. He firmly believed in the universality of man and that no man 
or groups of men should build their own happiness on the unhappiness and 
suffering of others. A capitalist economy that depends for its survival on 
having millions of unemployed could not, in his view, be considered moral or 
desirable. His patriotism embraced loyalty to the working men and women of 
Britain; indeed, he fought harder than most for the miners of Britain, and 
went to prison in 1926 to serve their cause. He worked all his life to better the 
lot of people everywhere. 

After all, my Marsh grandparents loved all twelve of their children, my own 
parents loved all five of us; none of them would have wanted to better one 
child at the expense of the others. But loving many does not diminish the 
devotion to any one; it rather enhances and increases it. So with the love of 
countries. The human heart is well stocked with love and has enough to 
distribute to people everywhere in the world. 

Saklatvala became totally absorbed in the various political movements to 
which he subscribed and spent hardly any weekends at home. He travelled all 
over Britain addressing meetings, and inspired great affection and devoted 
loyalty from working people all over the country. The fact that he came from 
India does not appear to have bothered or upset anyone. In fact there was one 
occasion during his second General Election campaign when the audience 
rallied to his defence at a public meeting. 

His opponent in that election was H.C. Hogbin, a National Liberal; there were 
rowdy demonstrations at Hogbin’s meetings by people claimed to be followers 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


of Comrade Saklatvala. In the end, Hogbin said he would not address any 
more meetings. Father published a notice for distribution calling on local 
people to give all politicians a fair hearing. Copies were sent to Hogbin, for 
distribution at his meetings. 

One Captain Godfrey, representing Hogbin, addressed a public meeting, 
sharing the platform with Saklatvala and, after referring to ‘Sak’s’ “splendid 
sportsmanship,” added, “but I have an instinctive preference for an 
Englishman.” This remark brought a torrent of abuse and indignation from 
the audience. A newspaper of the day reported that men and women rose to 
their feet and shouted protests. “You’re asking for it!”, “Shame!”, and “How 
about Lady Astor?”, were some of the remarks distinguishable through the 
din, which continued until Saklatvala himself intervened. Godfrey was forced 
to say that “if Mr Saklatvala thinks he has been insulted, I withdraw.” It is 
interesting to note that the ordinary rank and file members of that audience 
would not stand for any derogatory allusion to the fact that Father was an 
Indian. How sadly different things sometimes are today. 

In those days, of course, there were few Indians living here and most of them 
were doctors or lawyers or students or well-to-do business men. So the local 
United Kingdom populace did not then, as now, feel threatened by Indians; 
they were not then in competition for jobs and houses. 

I have certainly never heard of any antagonism being expressed by working 
men or women due to Father being a non-European. He was an outstanding 
orator and always had complete control of his audiences. There were never 
any incidents of unruly violence or disorder in his meetings. He dealt with 
hecklers as he dealt with any political situation, with humour and logic. People 
cut his name down to more manageable and pronounceable size and he was 
universally and affectionately known as ‘Sak.’ 

Shapurji was of only average height, with a neat, trim figure, vigorous in his 
speech and general deportment. He had dark, wavy hair, warm, shining hazel 
eyes that were most expressive of his earnestness, his anger or his twinkling 
and mischievous humour. Everyone who knew him was impressed by his 
kindliness, his warmth, his sincerity. His compassion was personal even when 
he was speaking of poverty or sickness or deprivation on a wide scale, and 
people never became mere statistical numbers for him; he felt for the 
thousands as keenly as he would feel for the individual next door. 


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As a speaker, he always drew the crowds, and his public meetings were usually 
full to overflowing. But, at the same time, no group was too small for him to 
address, and he would willingly go to talk informally to little groups of 
students or trade union members. 

No one now would say Shapurji was not robust— indeed, he seemed to have 
limitless energy, often travelling through the night and addressing two and 
three meetings in the day. His stay in Matlock, one way and another, had 
certainly made a new man of him! He was not only a fiery advocate of 
socialism, he was also a walking advertisement for the healing springs of 
Derbyshire! 


65 



CHAPTER 6 


The Mind is its Own Place 

Family life. The author’s childhood memories. 


The mind is its own place, and in itself 

Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven. 

John Milton, Paradise Lost 

Surely no braver man has ever existed than that primitive ancestor of ours 
who first dared to climb on to a fallen tree and drift on the waters of a flowing 
river. He must have been the first animal to move on anything but its own 
limbs; all mammals propelled on their own feet, all birds on their own wings 
and all fish on their own fins and tails. He alone, that courageous, pioneering 
man, used an outside agent, a log of wood... “One small step for a man; one 
giant leap for mankind.” Other innovative men have followed, and will yet 
follow, his heroic example. The log has led to all kinds of craft, from canoes to 
the Queen Mary, and the giant oil tankers and submarines; man’s skill at 
riding on horseback led him to attach a cart to the beast and later he 
discovered motor cars, steam trains, electric trains, aeroplanes and, most 
recently of all, spacecraft that have whisked men to the moon, making yet 
another small step, another giant leap. 

But when all our wondering hero-worship and applause have died down, we 
have to recognise that the most magical mode of travel is still on that 
superlative vessel, the human mind; it travels not only in space but also in 
time; it cannot be high-jacked or crashed or shot down, and it knows no limits. 
Occasionally, it is true, a mind may go off the rails or have its big-end blow, 
but such catastrophes usually result in even wilder flights of fancy than before. 
No, as a means of happy wandering, the human mind remains supreme. 

Thus it is with a great sense of liberation and relief that I attack this next 
chapter, for it will deal with my own memory, unfettered by research into facts 
and figures; for I intend now to give you some impression of Shapurji as a 
father and a family man. He and Sehri had five children, three sons and two 
daughters, of whom I am the youngest and, alas, the only lonely survivor; and, 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


no doubt, each of these five minds would have carried its owner on a different 
journey and would have shown Father in different lights. But here is my 
version of my father, for better or worse. I shall not only relate my direct 
memories, but also incidents and impressions passed on to me in later life by 
my mother. For Father was already in his middle forties when I was born, so 
that I remember him only as a comparatively older man; and I was only 
sixteen when he died, aged sixty-one. Whereas I shared my life with my 
mother until I was fifty-eight and she was eighty-eight, and I depend greatly 
on her recollections for my knowledge of Father. 

Like his Uncle Jamsetji, Shapurji was a creative dreamer and idealist; he was 
not, however, endowed with the same measure of pragmatism as that 
industrious, industrial magnate. He shared with his uncle an unquestioning 
and unquestioned determination to have his own way in all matters both 
public and private, which was seen as strength by his admirers and as 
obstinacy by those less sympathetic to him. 

Shapurji had an impish, ebullient yet quiet sense of fun and humour, and 
often used jocularity to prick the bubbles of pride or false dignity in others. 
Wide reading and powers of observation, together with a prodigious memory 
and a facility with figures bestowed upon him an encyclopaedic knowledge, 
which enabled him to make long political speeches, laden with accurate 
statistics, ex tempore and without reference to written notes. 

He was affectionate, loving and sympathetic, with an understanding of and a 
deep concern for the problems and sufferings of others; and when he was 
dealing with human deprivation on a massive scale and talking in terms of 
millions, he always saw their collective misery as the plight of individuals; 
people remained people and were never diminished by their numbers into 
mere statistics. 

He loved the beauties both of nature and of the arts, and was enriched by his 
enjoyment of both. He always stressed the need for honesty and honourable 
conduct in private as well as in public life. He was a deeply religious man while 
not subscribing to the tenets or doctrines of any one religion; but he tried 
always to steer a course of good against evil. His religious ardour finally found 
expression in communism, which became his fervent belief as a vehicle for the 
ultimate good of all mankind. 

He believed in the universality of man, and that no one man or group of men 


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or a nation should seek to improve their own lot to the detriment of other men 
and other nations; hence his defiant and progressive fight against all forms of 
imperialism. This was, I think, the guiding force behind all his political 
thinking, and the mainspring of all his endeavours. 

He does not appear to have engaged in any physically active recreations. In 
one edition of ‘Who’s Who’ he gives “playing chess and silence” as his hobbies. 
He was a contemplative man, and certainly there was no natural physical 
violence in him. 

He was always lucidly logical and was able to touch upon the centre and 
fundamentals of even the most complicated issues of any debate. His 
transparent sincerity and his sacrifice have never been questioned, even by 
those who were opposed to everything he stood for, and his unblemished 
integrity gained the respect and admiration of both followers and opponents. 

I think the only man who could have been regarded as an enemy, and one who 
was always personally antagonistic towards him, was his cousin, Dorabji Tata; 
this feeling of animosity was engendered during their boyhood, more by 
jealousy due to Jamsetji’s loving disposition and admiration for Shapurji, than 
by any particular trait in Shapurji’s own character. Jealousy is such a self- 
destructive emotion, that, as I found out more and more of the bitter enmity 
that Dorabji displayed towards my father, I could not but help feeling sorry for 
him; for although he did much to damage my father’s career as a businessman, 
I am convinced that he made himself more miserable than he made Father. In 
many ways, we are all indebted to him, for had Shapurji flourished in the 
family business, his political career might never have been fulfilled; and, so far 
as I personally am concerned, he may well never have met my mother, and 
where would I be then? In the void, I suppose, in the abyss, and without a 
mind to travel on. 

Because our surname is a distinctive one, even in India, all through my life I 
have always been asked if I am related to Saklatvala the MP. And I have found 
nothing but admiration for him as a speaker and as a man, even among those 
who had no sympathy whatever with his political ideals. On one occasion 
when he was having a ding-dong with the then Home Secretary in the House 
of Commons, the Speaker thanked him for his unfailing courtesy in debate. 
While he was always emphatic and outspoken in political exchanges, he never 
wittingly gave anyone personal offence. 


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Alas, Shapurji was not always quite so delicate in his dealings within the 
family! He was generally somewhat stern and aloof towards his children, but 
we all were aware of his warmth and affection; his strictness was itself a 
measure of his concern. He was, in fact, very fond and proud of all of us. The 
baby of the family always sat next to him at meal-times, and it was he who fed 
us and taught us how to feed ourselves in a mannerly way. He frequently took 
my eldest brother Dorab to the office with him, from when he was only about 
eighteen months old. He often took me with him on his travels when he was 
addressing meetings up and down the country, from when I was only about 
three. He even helped Mummy to cut out the clothes she made for us all; he 
was, in fact, much more personally involved with our day-to-day upbringing 
than most men of his generation. 

The first baby was born in Brookwood because Daddy’s mother was buried 
there and he wanted to be near her grave. (This attitude towards the dead 
changed completely when he was an older man. Indeed, on the very day that 
he died, he had been arguing with an Indian friend and journalist in favour of 
cremation, and had said to him, “Well, I hope when I die they will put me in 
the dustbin along with all the other rubbish.” But in 1907 and 1908 he was 
more sentimental on the subject). 

He must have been terribly excited to have a son, and when a neighbour asked 
him what the baby was, he mischievously told her it was twins! And she 
canvassed the news up and down the whole street, so that there was a great 
wave of sympathy for the fragile young wife. When Daddy finally admitted that 
it was just one baby boy, they were all so delighted that they forgave his 
teasing. 

When Dorab was still only an infant, the family moved to a cottage in the Vale 
of Health in Hampstead some time towards the end of 1908. There, their 
neighbours were an elderly couple, Mr and Mrs Marriott, who also hailed from 
the north of England. They replaced to some extent my mother’s parents, 
whom she sorely missed, and they were a great support and guide for her as a 
young mother; she was always glad of the older woman’s advice, and they 
remained life-long friends. 

After about a year, when Father lost his job with British Westinghouse, the 
family moved to Barker’s Lane in Sale, Cheshire. On the 10th of September 
1909, on my mother’s twenty-first birthday, their second baby was born. 


69 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Candy became the only one of us who ever openly defied Daddy, and she was 
as determined as he was; she always spoke with great authority, and it never 
occurred to me to question her any more than I would have questioned my 
father. She was, of course, ten years older than I was, which helped her in the 
sibling hierarchy. But more than any of us she inherited Father’s authoritas. 
When Candy was a few months old, Daddy wanted to concentrate on his legal 
studies, and so Sehri set out to visit America without him. He also wanted his 
two brothers who had settled in America, Phirozeshah and Beram, to meet 
Sehri and the two babies; he was proud of all of them and always enjoyed 
showing them off. It was agreed that the naming of the new baby girl should 
be left to the choice of Shapurji’s brothers; meanwhile they had been to see 
Shaw’s ‘Candida’ and Mummy playfully called the baby Candida. 



Photo: Barker’s Lane, Sale 

When she arrived in the US, she told the immigration officer that she had 
come to stay with her brother-in-law. Because he was not a blood relation she 
was told she would be sent to Ellis Island. She had never heard of it and did 
not understand what was happening. Then Phirozeshah came on board and 
said he was her brother— because in the family no distinction was made 
between brother and brother-in-law. This made the authorities even more 
suspicious, and it was only after a stormy altercation between Phirozeshah and 
the immigration authorities that Sehri and her two babies were allowed to 
land. The imperturbable young mum took it all calmly in her stride. 


70 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


She got on well with the two brothers and also with Phirozeshah’s secretary, 
Mae, whom he married some years later. There was a musical running in New 
York at the time called ‘The Candy Kid,’ so the name Candida was cut down to 
Candy and her name was formally decided upon. After a few months the 
family was re-united in England. It was from Kaikoo Mehta, and not from 
Father direct, that my mother learned that Shapurji had not taken his legal 
exams as planned. So far as I know, the legal career was never spoken of again. 
I think that it was at this juncture that they moved to 93 Great Clowes Street, 
Broughton, Salford, for it was there that baby number three was born; another 
son, named Beram after Father’s youngest brother. Beram the elder was a 
metallurgist in the USA and was making a name for himself there; he was 
undoubtedly the brains of his generation. My brother, his namesake, proved to 
be the brains of his generation also. He became a successful writer and had 
pictures hung in the Institute of British Artists, as well as being a successful 
businessman, making his career in the family firm, chiefly in the Tata Iron and 
Steel Company which Father had done so much to found. 



Photo: Great Clowes Street, Salford 

Beram was a colourful, imaginative, tender-hearted boy and man, very family- 
minded and always at hand to help in any crisis or distress. He was always a 
great spinner of tales, and from when he was only three years old, Daddy 
would stand him up in the drawing-room to entertain guests with stories of his 
own creation. He apparently once held everyone enthralled and helpless with 
laughter by relating a saga about a “chocodile” that bit a lady’s bottom; this 
was not a word currently in vogue in the drawing-rooms of the day. My mother 
was very pregnant at the time and her laughter led to her having to escape in 


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haste to the bathroom to avoid embarrassment. 

Candy also did her share of entertaining, but she was content to recite verses 
that she had learnt, rather than to invent stories of her own. The two younger 
children were always close friends and allies, and rather ganged up against 
Dorab the oldest, who was of a much shyer and more timid disposition. 
Father’s great preoccupation with honesty made him seem all too often to be 
an intimidating parent. When Dorab was about six, he came home from school 
one day with a little cork from a bottle in his pocket. When Father was 
undressing him at night, he asked him where the cork had come from; Dorab, 
in all innocence, said it had come from the school laboratory. If he had stolen 
the crown jewels, Daddy could not have been more angry. He explained that 
the cork did not belong to him but to the school and that it was, therefore, 
stealing to remove it from the school. The next morning being Saturday, 
Daddy trotted the poor little shame-faced boy to the private home of the 
headmaster, told him that Dorab had stolen the cork, that he had become a 
thief and that he had come to apologise and to return the property to the 
owner. 

Shortly afterwards, Candy came home and Daddy found a piece of chalk in her 
pocket. He stared at her sternly and demanded to know where the chalk had 
come from. “Oh,” she said, with feigned surprise, “it must have fallen into my 
pocket by mistake!” She got away with it; she got away with most things! 
When she was only a toddler, she would often loiter by shop windows when 
my parents were taking their two small children for a walk. Daddy would say, 
“Just walk out of sight round the corner and she’ll soon follow.” But she never 
did follow, and it would end with Dorab in tears, wailing that they would lose 
Candy; the stubbornly independent little girl did not even notice that the 
family had disappeared. 


7 2 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: Shapurji and Sehri Saklatvala 

Once, when they were living temporarily with Ratan Tata in York House, 
Father found the children talking after they had been put to bed; to punish 
them, he took Candy on to the landing and laid her down on cushions there; as 
usual, he mistakenly thought that she would beg to be taken back to bed; as 
usual she did not. “Oh, thank you, Daddy,” she said, “I like it here because the 
light will be on all night, won’t it?” Defeated, Daddy went downstairs and 
appealed to my mother to go and put the unrepentant rebel back to bed, as 
though it were a conspiracy between them both against Papa. So long as she 
was convinced that she was putting one over her stern parent, Candy was 
content! 

Beram was only eight months old when the family went to India in 1912, 
expecting to settle there. Father was a poor sailor and was not much use to 
Mother on the voyage. Mercifully, she always enjoyed sea travel and remained 
her usual robust and competent self, looking after the three small children and 
a sea-sick husband as to the manner born. Sehri always delighted in her 
brood; I used to tease her and say that motherhood was a disease with her. She 
certainly never felt, as many modern mothers appear to do, that to be with her 
children was boring. She treated them as an artist would treat his creations; 
they were her diversion, her delight, her life’s work. When she was in her late 
eighties, shortly before she died, she once said to me that her greatest 
happiness (among many) had been when she held her first baby in her arms; 
indeed, I have a photograph of her, holding her tiny prize triumphantly above 
her head, like a goddess of victory. So she coped with the journey, adequately 
and joyfully. 

Before they arrived in Bombay, Father told Mother of a dream he had had. In 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


his dream he had warned his beloved Sehri that it was the custom among 
Parsis to give money as gifts; it was likely, therefore, that the family would give 
money to her, and he did not want her to feel either insulted or embarrassed 
by this. Sehri, even in Father’s dreams, acted with unfailing candour. “Why 
should I be insulted?” she had asked, “I love people to give me anything!” 
Wide awake, Sehri assured him that his dream expressed her waking feelings 
exactly. It was true— any gift to Sehri was an act of love, and love was her 
favourite currency, no matter what container it arrived in. So, with the recital 
of a dream, Shapurji tactfully tested Sehri’s reaction to any possible future 
present giving— I wonder if he really did dream it all? Anyway, they both 
enjoyed the joke, and any anxiety Father might have felt evaporated in their 
early morning laughter. 

1912 was a year of triumph for the Tata Iron and Steel Company; in January of 
that year, during the visit to India of the King, Lord Crewe, then Secretary of 
State for India, visited the steel works at Sakchi (which was later renamed 
Jamshedpur, in honour of the founder) and saw part of the operation of 
production. But, although Father had contributed in large measure to the 
foundations of the company, he was not given any position in TISCO by 
Dorabji. Instead, he was appointed to investigate irregularities that were 
suspected in the running of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, another Tata concern 
in Bombay. 

Shapurji must have been hurt by this slight, but never complained about it to 
anyone; unless, perhaps, he confided in his father with whom the family was 
staying in Bombay. It says much for Father’s family allegiance, love and loyalty 
that, throughout the legal battles and antagonisms with Dorabji, my father 
would never say a word against the family in any social context. He remained 
loyal, loving and proud, and would never countenance any outsider to voice 
any criticism of his cousins without his challenging it; of course, politically and 
with his solicitor and Counsel, it was a different matter. 

But on the whole, despite the disappointments of his work and future 
prospects with the firm, this was one of the happiest periods in Shapurji’s life. 
He had returned to his beloved India, bringing with him the most cherished 
prize of his life, his adored Sehri. To make his happiness complete, she was not 
only accepted by his family, but was welcomed affectionately as a daughter 
and a sister; and, most important of all from Shapurji’s point of view, his wife 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


and his sister became close friends and always remained so. 

One story that he related to Mother of his work in the hotel always amused 
her; he went down to the kitchens one afternoon and found one of the chefs 
asleep on the table with his head pillowed on a loaf of bread. One can only give 
the unnamed fellow the benefit of the doubt and hope it was a stale one, 
destined only for the birds! Another memory of which I never tired was the 
story of how Shapurji had presented Sehri with a peacock and its hen to adorn 
the garden; but the ill-fated peahen fell into a barrel of tar and died; the 
devoted peacock died three days later of starvation and, presumably, a broken 
heart. Mother seemed to enjoy telling me this sad tale; perhaps that devoted 
pair of splendid birds became a symbol of the devotion of the giver and 
receiver of this ornithological gift of love. 

Father upset Granddad by telling the servants that he did not require them to 
take their shoes off in his or his family’s presence; Granddad complained 
bitterly to Mummy, “He can do whatever he likes in his own house, but I will 
not allow him to upset the routine of mine!” But all the servants assigned to 
Shapurji continued to be allowed to wear shoes. Father was revolted at the 
thought of anyone being expected to humiliate himself before another human 
being in any way, however trivial. On the whole, servants were treated very 
harshly in those days and Granddad was no exception. He expressed the 
opinion that you had to hit them, kick them if need be, to get them to work 
properly. But both my parents treated the servants as they treated all human 
beings, with courtesy and respect; and they certainly responded by working 
happily for them. It was a subject on which father and son never saw eye to 
eye. 

I have so far not mentioned that Shapurji also had a violent temper. This 
found public expression in his passionate oratory, but at home it manifested 
itself simply as bad temper. Very often it was matters outside the home that 
were upsetting him, but some minor domestic incident could trigger off a 
spate of shouting that frightened us all. Of course, like his Uncle Jamsetji 
before him (whom in many characteristics he closely resembled), he not only 
liked, but expected always to get, his own way; he therefore demanded 
absolute obedience from us children. Most of us gave it to him 
unquestioningly; my sister, however, shared this trait with him and always, 
from babyhood, defied him. My eldest brother Dorab was five when they were 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


in Bombay; he was always, both as man and boy, very shy. Daddy told him to 
thank Granddad by saying “Ha-ji,” but Dorab said his thank you in English. 
This blew up into a major confrontation and ended with Father hitting the 
little boy with a cane. My mother intervened and she became the target of his 
shouting. 

[Editor’s note: ‘Goodbye’ in Gujerati is actually ‘Aav-jo.’] 

One of the servants went to the house of Ali Fui (Daddy’s sister) and related 
the story to her, no doubt with dramatic embellishments. When Ali Fui saw 
my mother afterwards, her sympathies were all with her English sister-in-law, 
and she said that Shapurji should have married a Parsi girl who would not 
have put up with such nonsense! 

My mother somehow rode these storms, but they were terrifying episodes. 
When Mother remonstrated with him after one of these outbursts, he said that 
he only bothered to lose his temper with those he loved, namely, his mother, 
his sister, his wife and his children; other people, he said, were not worth 
expending his energy and passions on. Well, this was small comfort; although 
I see what he meant. I myself am never very much moved by what strangers 
and casual acquaintances say of me— it is only those I care for who have the 
power to hurt me. 

This bad temper was offset by an impish and ebullient sense of humour, which 
was often evident in Shapurji’s House of Commons speeches. He stood very 
much alone in that august body, being the only Indian, as well as the only 
representative of the Communist Party, and his humour became a keen and 
potent weapon of self defence when he was besieged on all sides, from right, 
left and centre. That was the one place in which he almost never lost his 
temper, but he was at all times courteous and correct, though often roguishly 
taking the mickey out of his political opponents. 

Dorab was made much of in India as the future head of the family. Granddad 
had a grown-up Parsi suit made for him with the traditional hat, and he was 
photographed in all his adult finery. I think both the boys were very much 
spoilt by all of Daddy’s relations, his sister and brother and old Aunt as well as 
by his father. I never heard much about the reaction to the little four-year-old 
Candy. Perhaps the unusual surroundings finally daunted her, as nothing else 
had done. Baby Beram succumbed to the heat and was so desperately ill that 
Sehri was sent to Ootacamund by train with the three children. It was only a 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


long time afterwards that she was told that no one had expected the little baby 
to survive the journey; but mercifully, he did, and in the cooler air of the hills 
fully recovered. 

Perhaps this near-loss of his infant son was in Shapurji’s mind when, years 
later as an MP, he devoted much of his attention to the unacceptably high 
infant mortality rate in British India; he complained of it again and again; as 
always, while speaking of the deaths of thousands, he understood that each 
individual death was a grief and a loss to each of the sorrowing parents. Babies 
remained babies even in their thousands— they were never impersonal 
statistics. 

Sehri was never told how Shapurji’s employment with the firm in India came 
to an end. One day he sent a messenger to the house and told her to start 
preparing to return to England as they were to leave within a week. When he 
came home that evening, he tried to persuade his father to sail back with 
them. Finally, Granddad agreed. The next day, Sehri told Granddad that he 
had better start making preparations for the journey, but Granddad said 
quietly that he was not going. “But you told Shapur last night that you were 
coming back to England with us.” “I only said that to keep Sapoo quiet— but I 
am staying here,” the old man said. I have no knowledge of the exact date of 
their return, but I have a photograph of Mummy and the three children with 
Granddad’s sister, Bachubai Fui, taken in March 1913; they were in Bombay 
for a year or so, and probably returned to England in May or June of 1913. 

On their return to England the family moved into York House, Twickenham, 
with Ratanji, as ever, a kind and affectionate friend to Shapurji and his family. 
The Saklatvalas had a wing of the house to themselves, but Ratanji and 
Navajbai spent a lot of time with the children. This period up to the time of 
Ratan’s death in 1918 was a happy time for all of them, except, of course, for 
Ratan’s increasing ill health. They remained for a few months in York House 
before moving to Lebanon Park, just round the corner. 

Early in 1914, Shapurji made a journey to Bombay on his own, returning in 
April (when, as already related, he and Sehri met in France and enjoyed a brief 
holiday together unencumbered by the children). This trip was probably made 
on behalf of Ratan; I do not think that it was yet another attempt to persuade 
Dorabji to take him back into the fold in India; his year in Bombay had finally 
dispelled all hope of reconciliation in that direction, I think. 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Once back in England, Shapurji threw himself once more into the political 
arena. He and Sehri settled down happily to their life near the river in 
Twickenham, a stone’s throw away from Ratan’s York House. 

Father had always said he wanted all his children to marry partners of 
different nationalities— he envisaged fathering a tribe that would be truly 
international and free from jingoism. Once, Mother had gone to visit her 
parents and sisters in Manchester, and when she returned to Lebanon Park, 
she found awaiting her a beautiful Chinese lacquered cabinet about six feet 
high, as a surprise welcome-home present. “Where has this come from?” she 
asked. “Oh,” said Shapur with his usual serious playfulness, “while you were 
away, Candy’s future husband brought it as a gift from China.” This cabinet 
adorned our home until 1972, when Mother and myself moved into a small 
house; it was too big for the little rooms and, in any case, the lacquer was 
beginning to show signs of wear. Needless to say, no Chinese husband ever 
turned up for my sister, or for me either, come to that. 



Photo: Saklatvala, 1922 

Shapurji and Sehri went quite frequently to the Richmond Hippodrome and 
the Chiswick Empire, sometimes on their own and sometimes with Kaikoo 
Mehta and other friends. Their neighbours were a Mr and Mrs Mitchell, who 
had boys about the same age as Dorab and Beram; parents and children all got 
on well together; Sehri and Mrs Mitchell often went shopping together. 
Apparently when they saw well-to-do elderly matrons trying on fine clothes 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


and fur coats, Mrs Mitchell would say, “You and I would look a lot nicer in that 
than she does! The trouble is, by the time we can afford to buy things like that, 
we’ll be as old and ugly as they are!” 

When Mummy herself was elderly, she often used to quote Mrs Mitchell when 
she bought anything new, and she laughed and saw the funny side of growing 
old. Actually, she never lost her good looks, even though she lost her youth, of 
course, like anyone else; but she maintained her finely chiselled countenance, 
and perennially looked a good twenty years younger than she actually was. 
Once when Mother was having tea with a somewhat elegant and conventional 
neighbour, Beram had a rough and tumble with other boys in the street and 
got a cut on his head; he was brought to the house of the spic and span 
neighbour, bleeding and looking like a disreputable street urchin. He was laid 
in the spare room bed, all frills and lace and satin cushions, in his muddy and 
blood-stained clothes. He was accident prone and always in trouble and 
disgrace as a small boy. But the incident did not sever the friendship between 
the refined hostess and my mother. 

Father was again somewhat ahead of his time in that he did not believe either 
in baby-talk or in serving up fairy tales and illusions to the children. So one 
winter’s afternoon, when Sehri and Shapurji were going up to town by train, 
they took their eldest-born with them. Dorab, unused to being out after dark, 
asked Father why there was only half a moon. Father, glad of the promising 
scientific curiosity displayed, went into astronomic detail and the child 
seemed satisfied. But when they emerged from the train at the end of their 
journey, Dorab looked into the sky and said, “There’s the other half of the 
moon all the time, Daddy!” So his hopes of producing a little Galileo were 
dashed. 

Shapurji joined the Independent Labour Party in Manchester in 1909. The 
following year he resigned from the National Liberal Club. Now, soon after his 
return from India and with Europe plunged into war, his political 
involvements increased and he was less and less at home at weekends; for he 
was already addressing and attending meetings of the various groups he 
supported. Even when he was at home, much of the time he was entertaining 
those who were sympathetic to his numerous causes. 

Once when he was discussing the role of the conscientious objectors, he 
addressed a little group of like-minded enthusiasts gathered in the house. He 


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said, “And when your children ask you what you did in the Great War, you will 
be able to say you stood firm like men!” And the five-year-old Beram, 
precocious as ever, said to Mummy, “Oh, no, he didn’t. He went out and 
bought honey and chocolate for us, didn’t he?” This was because Father had 
indeed bought a large barrel of honey and packets of chocolate as a stand-by 
for the children, “Because,” he had said, “you never know, the war may last for 
six months.” It says little for his foresight that he looked upon six months as a 
possible long-term duration for a war that was to rage for four long years. 

It seems to me in retrospect that he was surprisingly unworried by the conflict; 
so much so that he and Sehri planned their fourth child. Up to then, they had 
wanted a boy, followed by a girl, followed by a boy; and each time, their wishes 
had been fulfilled. They both began to take their good fortune for granted and 
the next baby was to be a girl and she was to be called Sehri, sentimentally, 
after her mother. But in 1915, after a particularly prolonged and difficult 
labour, they were presented with their third son; this one was called Kaikoo, 
after Kaikoo Mehta. Kaikoo was a somewhat skinny little fellow, never very 
strong, cursed with a quick-firing temper but, as time passed, with an equally 
quick-firing wit. By the time he came on the scene, the sibling pattern was 
already established— the eldest son, Dorab, told he must, as the eldest son, be 
responsible for the good behaviour of the others, was consequently rather cut 
off from their companionship; Candy and Beram were constantly together, 
and I fear the puny little newcomer was condemned to loneliness. He was, 
therefore, made a fuss of by Sehri, who always doted on him and, probably, 
spoiled him. 

It was about this time that Father was making a name for himself as a speaker 
for the Independent Labour Party and was much in demand; consequently he 
travelled a great deal up and down the country, addressing meetings and 
carrying on propaganda for the party. He was less and less at home. 

There were many visitors of a purely social character to the house, as well as 
the politically involved ones. Kaikoo Mehta was with us almost every weekend, 
Granddad Saklatvala was spending more and more time in England and often 
stayed at Lebanon Park for long periods. There were several Indian couples 
with children who joined in our family life, with picnics in Richmond Park and 
outings on the river. Mrs Gray, the Scottish nurse first recruited in 1908 in 
Brookwood, was much in evidence. Mother’s sisters took it in turns to come 


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and spend holidays with her, and Grandma and Granddad Marsh also came 
periodically from Oldham. 

There were visits to London zoo. The hard-working Sehri would be up at dawn 
preparing sandwiches, boiled eggs and kebabs and off they would go, a whole 
tribe of children and cousins and friends, for the journey across London. 
Grandma Marsh, for all her poverty, liked to keep in fashion and spent much 
time sewing and stitching to keep up with the times. Granddad would tease 
her and say, “Eh, aye, Annie-Jane, tha’d best be out o’ this world than be out o’ 
fashion!” And before one of the excursions to the zoo, she had busied herself 
for a whole afternoon, titivating and trimming a hat, which sported, amid the 
bows and ribbons, a sweeping ostrich feather. Alas, Grandma approached too 
near to the monkey’s cage and a long arm stretched out through the wire 
netting and grabbed the feather and would not let go; but the hat was held 
firmly in place by a closely fitting veil. There was quite a scene until Granddad 
stopped laughing long enough to rescue both Grandma and the hat— but the 
feather fell in the battle. 

In 1916, Mother’s father died. He was ill for some weeks, and Mummy went up 
to Derbyshire where he was staying with her sister Annie. All his children were 
devoted to him and their grief was profound as they stood round Harry’s bed 
and he said goodbye to them all. “Tha’s all been good childer,” he said. Aunty 
Annie, in tears, answered him, “You’ve been a good Dad!” “Aye,” he said, 
thinking it over, “Aye, I think I ’ave.” In less than a year, Grandma was also to 
lose her eldest child, Lily, who died giving birth. What sorrows people are 
called on to endure. The baby lived and was adopted by the childless married 
sister, Annie, always a close friend to Mummy, as they were next to one 
another in age. The baby, called Lily after her dead mother, was to be a 
constant visitor to our house, and she and I were as close as sisters as time 
went on, and I am thankful to say that we remain in sisterly friendship even 
now. 

In 1918, death was to visit the family yet again, taking this time Father’s 
cousin, Ratan. In Frank Harris’s biography of Great-Uncle Jamsetji, it is said 
that the old man hastened his own death by his one indulgence, a love of good 
food. His son, Ratan, perhaps damaged his own health also, but by other 
equally compelling appetites. These are warm-hearted failings and it seems to 
me hard that they should be punishable by death. I look upon them as 


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weaknesses that go with warmth and compassion and a loving disposition; I 
contend that those who suffer from them are far better people than the cold or 
stony-hearted who are often full of puritanical righteousness. So in 1918, 
Daddy’s closest cousin died in Cornwall, and Shapurji’s links with the family 
became even more tenuous and even more dependent on the toleration, if not 
exactly the goodwill, of Dorabji. 

Ratan’s death was indeed a bitter blow to Shapurji; fortunately his widow, 
Aunty Navajbai, continued to visit us whenever she was in England, always 
much loved by every one of us, my mother included Indeed, she was such a 
favourite that when my middle brother Beram was a boy, he always said he 
planned to marry her! She was daintily petite, having a pretty, small-featured 
face with a mischievous mouth and merry eyes. She dressed most elegantly 
with saris and blouses made from French fabrics; very chic, very graceful. To 
her, Shapurji’s politics and high principles were something of a joke, and she 
loved to provoke and tease him, usually through us. 

When I was four, Daddy sent me to join my youngest brother to a convent 
school. Since he had been taught by Jesuit Fathers, he had implicit faith in 
them as teachers, and was convinced that nuns also, being unencumbered by 
family and emotional entanglements, were able to give their undivided 
attention to the children in their care. But he did not want to be reminded of 
the accusation that he had once become a Catholic and he had stipulated that 
we children were not to receive any religious teaching at the hands of the 
nuns. But I loved the stories, the prayers and the hymns, and Aunty Navajbai 
would sit me on her knee and have me recite for her my Hail Marys and the 
Our Father, and she would watch my father’s consequent discomfiture with 
obvious glee. I, of course, was too young and innocent to realise that anything 
was amiss and merely basked in her adoration and praise. 

At last, in 1918, with the war still dragging on, it was decided that another 
attempt should be made to produce a baby Sehri. The still-lonely little Kaikoo 
was told that he could expect a baby sister in June 1919. When, in March, the 
clocks were put forward to summer time, he said, with a sigh that would have 
been more fitting in an old man, that he wished they would put the clock on to 
June so that he could play with the new baby. Mother was always touched by 
this because she felt it showed a non-jealous and loving nature. But I see it as a 
revelation of that poor little boy’s loneliness and isolation within the family. I 


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think it was still quite unusual for small children to be told all that much in 
advance of an impending new arrival. 

At last, on the 2nd of June 1919, I put in an appearance. Mummy’s youngest 
sister Lottie was staying with us at the time and deeply offended my mother by 
taking one look at me and giggling, saying, “Oh, what a funny little thing! 
What a funny little thing!” Mummy, always convinced that the latest arrival 
was the acme of perfection, never fully forgave her for this lapse into 
tactlessness. My father spoiled me from the word go, and bored all the family 
by constantly talking about me. This was not due to any particular virtue in me 
but simply, I am sure, because I bore the same name as his beloved wife. 
Granddad Saklatvala came down from Manchester to inspect me when I was 
six weeks old. Apparently he was convinced that I was a re-incarnation of his 
grandmother, whose name had been Jeevanbai; this second name was, 
therefore, added to my certificate of birth in accordance with his wishes. 
Granddad superstitiously always carried a photograph of me as an infant and 
never signed any important letter or document without placing my picture in 
front of him on his desk. Normally my father would have remonstrated with 
him for such superstition, but he seems to have been pleased by this particular 
manifestation of a credulity he would in other circumstances have condemned. 
It so happened that Granddad was planning to visit his two sons in America 
and he wrote to my parents from Manchester, asking them to have another 
photograph taken of me since the one he had, through constant handling, was 
very worn. He was told when the picture was taken and he was promised a 
copy as soon as it arrived from the photographer. He therefore sent the old 
photograph to Uncle Phirozeshah in New York. The next morning, while 
packing his trunk, he had a heart attack and died. Daddy said that, had any 
other disaster overtaken him, he would undoubtedly have ascribed it to his 
having parted with my photograph. 

In a letter addressed to my brother in 1937, a year after Father’s death, one Mr 
Colin Cannie wrote and described how Daddy had stayed with his family in 
Glasgow in 1935, and how he had been talking of matters occult and related 
the story of Granddad’s death. Mr Cannie wrote: 

“This aspect of his life you should bring out as these were genuine 
experiences indeed, though he, of course, couldn’t or didn’t endeavour 
to explain them. That may seem queer to those who accept the old type 


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of dialectic materialism, yet ‘Sak’ (as he insisted on our addressing him 
as that and really I look on it as a very dear name to me) was not 
prepared to scoff at it and dismiss it as baloney; I think he looked upon 
it as something at present he was or we are unable to explain because of 
certain gaps in our scientific knowledge. Anyway, his mind was not 
prone to superstition and his analytical power was highly developed...” 
Granddad Saklatvala had always doted on the boys in the family, but had left 
Candy out in the cold. He would give the boys a half-crown and give nothing to 
my sister; and once cruelly told her she was just a stone. No wonder, then, that 
she disliked him. She was staying with friends in Belgium when he died and 
they relayed what they thought should be the sad news to her. She used to tell 
me years later (when we were very good friends and close companions) how 
she felt that her hosts expected her to show some grief; so, although she felt 
nothing except perhaps relief at his passing, she sat in front of a mirror, trying 
desperately to make the tears fall— but none came! 

It is equally unsurprising that when I made my appearance in her world, 
fussed over by Daddy, doted on by the Grandfather who had despised her 
girlhood in favour of the male progeny, that she felt hurt and angry and 
frustrated by my arrival. She resented deeply being asked to take me out in the 
pram and she and her friend used to see who could make me cry first on these 
enforced perambulations. When we were grown up she used to relate these 
episodes to me and we both laughed about them; mercifully, the resentment 
passed with my childhood and, as adults, we were the best of friends. Thank 
God she was of a forgiving disposition. But I do not think she ever felt the 
same devoted affection for my father as I did and, indeed, still do. Perhaps she 
wondered, as I have often done, why she was not called after my mother, as 
the first-born daughter. Neither of us ever asked the question out loud and 
therefore neither of us ever knew the answer. 

In 1921 or 1922, when I was about two, Father bought their first house. Up to 
then they had always lived in rented accommodation. 2 Saint Albans Villas, 
Highgate Road, London NW5 (always known to us all as ‘Number Two’) was a 
large Edwardian villa, having four storeys including a basement. 

Because of our association with the Tatas, it was always assumed that we, too, 
were wealthy; in fact, we were anything but. Father was still, at this time, 
working in quite a modest capacity in the Tata office in London. Kaikoo Mehta 


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was also there and the two men remained staunch friends. 

Kaikoo was unmarried but had a most elegant housekeeper called Mrs Milton; 
she was a very aristocratic-looking lady who had been driven to earn her living 
because a dissolute husband had abandoned her; her only son had been badly 
gassed in the war and consequently was an invalid. She was a dignified, 
methodical lady, with a flower-like complexion and a dignified aristocratic 
face, surmounted by a high edifice of white, silky hair, cascading in waves from 
a high crown to the nape of a long and graceful neck. 

Mrs Milton always rose at about five o’clock and had most of the work finished 
before anyone was about; she would have felt it ‘infra dig’ to be witnessed 
performing menial household chores. More often than not she came with 
Kaikoo Mehta on his weekend visits to us, and she and my mother were 
intimate friends. From time to time, we children would spend a weekend with 
her, always only one at a time. Father was a great believer in sending us to stay 
with friends and relatives so that we learned how to conduct ourselves in the 
company of others, away from parental guidance. 



Photo: St Albans Villas, Highgate Road, London 

Father had grand plans for the house in Highgate Road, but money was scant 
and everything had to be done bit by bit. We were nearly five years with no 
floor covering on the stairs, and my mother used to sweep and scrub the bare 
boards of flight after flight of stairs. Indeed, she only managed to have them 
covered when Daddy was safely housed in Wormwood Scrubs in the 1926 


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General Strike; she had saved all her birthday and Christmas present money 
for years and drew it out of the Post Office to buy linoleum. Shapurji had walls 
knocked down to make rooms bigger and he had other walls built to make 
rooms smaller. 

The garden was dug out in front of the basement so that the basement was 
level with the garden. The coal cellar was transformed into a large entrance 
hall, the steps leading up to the old front door were excavated away. What had 
been a rambling old kitchen became our dining room, and a new kitchen was 
built onto the back of the house. The old entrance hall on what had been the 
ground floor, with a dividing wall demolished, enlarged the front room, which 
housed a billiard table, bookcases full of books and Beram’s ‘museum’ of 
fossils and stones that he had collected. This was always known as the 
Children’s Room. 

In the drawing room (behind the billiard room and overlooking the large back 
garden), above the Adam marble fireplace, Shapurji erected a life-size statue of 
Venus rising from sea-waves of plaster, her hair swirling in the sea breezes 
hiding anything that might be deemed indelicate in a drawing-room of the 
period. She, like many oil paintings of some beauty and worth, including a full 
length portrait of a statuesque lady by Burne-Jones, came from York House 
after Ratan’s death; we also had a full-sized reclining figure of Psyche with 
Cupid at her feet, luxuriously bedded down amid her marble cushions on a 
plinth in the back garden; another York House memento. 

My father haunted auction sales, which was another trait he shared with my 
sister. A job lot of marble bought in an auction lined what had been the 
basement, the floors were of white and gray marble, the walls of pink. A 
miniature marble Taj Mahal bought at the Wembley Empire Exhibition 
adorned the marble mantelpiece, and a marble table top inlaid with colourful 
mother-of-pearl was inset in one wall. Four oval plaques of white marble with 
draped and dancing figures in relief were set in the hall and dining room walls. 
All these alterations were done bit by bit, often standing half finished for 
months on end while Father managed to accumulate the money to carry on. 

But one room he did immediately on arrival. For the first few weeks of our 
occupation of the house, the room that was to be my parent’s bedroom was 
kept locked and Sehri was only allowed in on her birthday, when she was 
presented with grand French Empire furniture, heavy mahogany emblazoned 


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with brass ornamentation. The walls were covered in wooden panels of shaded 
cream, and a magnificent dressing table set of amethyst-coloured cut glass 
shimmered on the dressing table; a plain cut glass toilet set lay resplendent on 
the polished green marble of the flamboyant french empire washstand. It was 
not for use; forming an L-shape off the main bedroom was a dressing room 
housing a wash basin, a huge wardrobe for Father’s things and an exquisite 
chest of drawers inlaid with a geometric design of different coloured woods. In 
the large window, there was a shell-shaped sofa in black and gold, with deep 
rose silk upholstery with classical designs woven in gold silk. The same fabric 
had been used to cover the bed quilt and the chairs. 

What a birthday present! And what a far cry from Foxholes cottage where Sally 
had been born. Such was Sehri’s welcome to their new home. 

Like his Uncle Jamsetji, Shapur wanted the benefit of all the best in modern 
inventions. His was one of the first houses to be run entirely on electricity; our 
heating (which we could ill afford and only switched on for visitors— who, 
mercifully, were frequent!), our cooking, lighting and hot water system were 
all electric. In those early days there were frequent calamities; on one occasion 
when Mummy was entertaining a Parsi priest to dinner with other friends, the 
cooker was going full blast to cook a four-course dinner, the heating was on 
and the house was ablaze with lights, when the whole system, grossly over- 
loaded, succumbed to a power failure. We were suddenly plunged into total 
darkness, with a cooker full of half-cooked food and a swiftly cooling house. 
But mercifully, in those days, repair men were always at the ready and were 
soon at hand to rescue us. 

So much then for Shapurji, the doting father and husband, happily settled at 
last in a home of his own. Let us now take a look at ‘Sak’, the politician. 


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CHAPTER 7 


Freedom for Me and Mine, Bondage 
for Thee and Thine 

Growing reputation as an orator. The International Socialist 
Congress, 1912. Death ofKeir Hardie, 1915. The Easter Rising 
in Dublin, 1916. Foundation of the Workers’ Welfare League 
of India, 1917. Foundation of the Peoples’ Russian 
Information Bureau, 1918. Work for Ramsay MacDonald in 
the 1918 election. Delegate to the ILP conferences in 1918, 
1919 and 1921. Association with the work of Sylvia 
Pankhurst. The Second Congress of the Communist 
International and Saklatvala’s subsequent break with the 

ILP. 


Of all my fears 

It is loneliness that wears 

The worst mask, with lips bitten and bleeding, 

And eyes full of tears. 

Ronald Duncan, This Way to the Tomb 

It has taken two world wars and much complicated and arduous political 
striving to achieve a little of what my father sought to accomplish. He was a 
revolutionary and was consequently looked upon by the establishment as a 
danger. In England, revolution has always been despised as something 
conducted by a disorderly mob, usually in disorderly and shabby countries; 
whereas war has always been considered noble and heroic and tragic-on-the- 
grand-scale. But counting up the dead and measuring the suffering of two 
world wars and the many human degradations that went on in between (many 
of which, alas, continue even now), I cannot help but wonder if a revolution 
might not perhaps have caused less agony in the long run. But we just have to 
accept that revolution, as such, is totally abhorrent to the English. 

The one revolution that took place here and which led to the transient 


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Commonwealth of Cromwell has always been graced by the name of ‘civil 
war’; this has given that particular revolutionary fracas a respectability 
suitable to the English temperament. Revolutions take place in Russia and 
South America, not in the neat suburban streets or even in the decaying inner 
cities of orderly and respectable England. When troops of the despotic Tzar of 
all the Russias fired on and killed hundreds of Russian workers in 1905 in 
front of the Winter Palace, he did not even have to be forgiven, for it roused no 
more than a flicker of anger here; but when a handful of Russian citizens killed 
a handful of Russian royals, it was called murder and ruthless assassination, 
and the Russian people, (and communism in toto) have never been, and never 
will be, forgiven for it by the western (self-styled) democracies. Murder is 
death inflicted by civilian hands, slaughter by the recognised national armies 
of the world is called war and is not only considered acceptable but even 
laudable; medals, knighthoods and Lordships are bestowed upon its more 
ruthless and valiant campaigners. 

So my father’s overt exoteric cry for the same freedom for his people that the 
British took for granted for theirs, was termed ‘dangerous sedition’ and he, 
who only offered friendship to all instead of merely to a few, was treated as the 
peoples’ enemy and subjected to Scotland Yard scrutiny, to his meetings being 
banned, (though they had at all times been peaceful and orderly), and finally, 
and most cruelly, to his permanent exile from the country of his birth, without 
trial, indeed, even without open accusation. Such was the much acclaimed 
democratic freedom that was afforded to him. 

I would like to explain that much of the recorded material available on 
Father’s early life has been taken from letters written to my brother, Beram, 
when it was his intention to write a biography, in 1937, a year after Father’s 
death. One has to take account of the persons who wrote those letters, how 
well they knew my father and whether they were friend or foe; was their 
memory accurate, no matter what their intentions towards Father’s memorial 
might have been? They cannot all be taken as gospel truth; even when facts 
that are true are related, one has to beware of the interpretation of the 
intentions behind the facts. Most of the distortions are benevolent and 
unimportant. 

As an instance of the tricks that memory plays on witnesses speaking long 
after the event, I will relate the trivial and harmless recollection of one Mr 


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Desai, a younger man who was a student when he knew our family. Now it so 
happens that neither of my parents ever used terms of endearment to us or to 
each other. One of Mummy’s close friends once asked her if it did not upset 
her that Daddy never called her ‘darling’; this same friend later said she 
understood why Mummy was not hurt by this because, she said, Father spoke 
Mummy’s name caressingly which made it itself a term of endearment. 
Another trivial fact— Father never added condiments to his meal and was 
always very proud of Mummy’s cooking (both English and Indian and 
mixtures of the two). But when I met this Mr Desai in Switzerland, twelve 
years after Father’s death, he was affectionately reminiscing about his visits to 
our family home and he said, “How well I remember your father saying to your 
mother after a meal, ‘Well, Darling, that was very nice, but it needed a little 
more salt.’” Now such a distortion is totally unimportant and there was 
certainly no harm done by it; but it serves to show that with the friendliest of 
intentions, memory can be unreliable. 

Most of the Parsi community living in London before World War Two were 
successful doctors, merchants or lawyers who conformed to the well-ordered 
pattern of English upper- middle-class social customs. And when Father at 
social banquets sat down when God Save the King was sung at the end of the 
meal, and did not toast the Royal Family, many Parsis found him a bit of an 
embarrassment. Usually, they made fun of him. There was no real animosity 
and most of them were proud of his fame, but his left-wing notions were 
certainly not to their liking. Also, many people did not make allowances for 
Daddy’s impish sense of humour and a desire to shock and take the mickey out 
of the ultra-respectable and rather pompous pillars of Indian society in 
London. 

One of the letters addressed to my brother in 1937 was from one Spitam Cama, 
who had known Father since 1890, but whose social and political opinions 
were diametrically opposed to his. Beram had shown this letter, along with all 
the others to my mother, and she was most indignant about most of it and 
judged it to be “a lot of tommy-rot!” Nonetheless, it existed, and when people 
have asked for material on Father, I have passed it on with the rest. Spitam 
Cama related that, as soon as World War I broke out, a small group of Indians, 
including himself and Father and Sir Mancherjee Bhownagree, met regularly 
in a little restaurant at the corner of Dean Street and Oxford Street. 


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He recalls that Father said their aim should be “to kill as many Englishmen as 
possible” and said British troops in India could be killed by infecting the 
Bombay water supply with cholera. If he did use these or similar words, he 
certainly was not propounding practical intentions; he was probably finding 
an outlet for his anger against British rule in India in a semi-jocular, verbal 
torrent. Words and humour were his most potent weapons and refuge. Very 
often, a seemingly flippant verbal outburst helps us overcome our deeply-felt 
and passionate rages. (I remember when I was working in India House, some 
male chauvinist made me excessively angry, and I danced through the office 
brandishing a pair of scissors, threatening to operate on his spheres of virility. 
Actually, I am too squeamish even to cut someones’ finger nails, so his virility 
was quite safe from any surgical intervention from me. But people recalling 
the incident and reporting on it many years after, might, understandably, 
record me as being a violent and cruel maniac. I assure you, I have never acted 
violently in my life against anyone, except verbally). 

And so I believe it was with Father. In fact, apart from words, he was 
consistently gentle and against violence. For instance, he did not like Mother 
to take us children into butchers’ shops or to allow us in the kitchen when she 
was cutting up meat or fish. I once asked if I could cut the heads and tails off 
the sprats Mummy had bought and he was most distressed. 

So I do not think that this assertion by Spitam Cama should be taken as a 
serious intention of plotting any physical act of violence. For one thing he was 
not so stupid as to think that you could infect water with cholera and induce it 
only to affect British troops and not also the indigenous population. I should 
imagine that most of us have, at one time or another, said in anger: “Oh, I 
could kill that woman!” Such words do not make us all into real or potential 
murderers— the words suffice to soak up our emotions. So the words ascribed 
to Father by Spitam Cama, even if true, do not indicate that he was a violent 
man. Violent men do not have to resort to words, they do the deeds. I certainly 
do not take them at their face value as some of his biographers may do. 

As I have already mentioned, he had for several years been subjected to 
Scotland Yard inquisitiveness. This was no hardship, for his intention was to 
make everyone— and that included Scotland Yard— aware of his political 
aspirations. He was certainly not trying to hide them. So it merely amused him 
to witness the waste of time, effort and money in following him around, 


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playing ‘hunt-the-thimble’ when the thimble was set in a brightly illuminated 
display cabinet and not hidden from view at all. 

Even now, when I thought that a sight of the reports of his movements 
throughout those early years of his activity would save me much time in 
research, upon applying for sight of the papers I was informed that I am not 
allowed to see the dossier compiled by Scotland Yard until seventy years after 
his death. By that time, of course, I shall be dead too and, who knows, might 
be hearing from him at first hand of all his exploits. Why there should still be 
this cloak-and-dagger secrecy I cannot for the life of me imagine. Empires do 
not topple so easily— and anyway, where is the Empire to be toppled? As far as 
I know, it no longer exists. Or is it still lurking, extant, in one of the Secret 
Service files? 

One great comfort arose from this constant accompaniment of Father by his 
doppelganger from the Yard: surely there could be no wife in England so 
secure as my mother in the proof of her husband’s constancy and faithfulness; 
for it is certain that, had the Scotland Yard spies been able to dig up anything 
discreditable in Father’s personal life, they would have done so jubilantly. 
Between his return to England in 1913 and his entry into the British 
Parliament as member for North Battersea in 1922, his political aims were 
expressed in increasing activity in the socialist movement, the Independent 
Labour Party (which he had joined in 1909 in Manchester), the Fabian Society, 
the trade union movement, the women’s suffrage cause, in the conscientious 
objectors’ movement and, of course, above all, the urgent and compelling cry 
for India’s freedom from foreign rule as imposed by the British government; 
indeed, he worked to free all peoples from any form of imperialism, the 
peoples of Africa, China, Ireland, and all others. 

He went further than that; he wanted working people all the world over who, 
after all, were the creators of any country’s wealth, to own the means of 
production in which they worked, be it on the land or in a factory; in other 
words, he believed passionately and steadfastly in world communism, 
believing that nothing less could liberate the working people of the world from 
exploitation, tyranny, illiteracy and want. 

In all these spheres he became known as an ardent and fluent orator who 
spoke from heartfelt and sincere convictions and an unshakable belief in the 
righteousness of all the causes he was serving. He also held the optimistic view 


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that everything he was working for would inevitably one day come to fruition. 
He seemed to look upon all setbacks as temporary hitches and hold-ups in the 
ultimate triumph of working-class people everywhere. His determination was 
profound and unshakeable, and, through his magnetic oratory, infectious. 

He tried always to make the British working classes understand that, so long 
as British Imperialism created cheap labour in the Empire, the jobs of the 
workers in the United Kingdom were put in jeopardy. For even the most lowly 
paid English worker enjoyed a far higher standard of wages and living than his 
fellow workers in India, Africa, China, etc. Sweated labour in the Empire 
meant unemployment at home. He did not attempt to appeal to any altruism 
in the British working class, (he was too much of a realist to attempt that), but 
he tried to make them understand that it was in their self-interest to fight for 
equal wages and standards of living for the working class peoples of the 
Empire. The cotton weavers, the coal miners, the jute workers in the United 
Kingdom, were all being foisted out of work by the low wages paid to similar 
workers in India and Africa. 

In other words, it was in the mutual self-interest of workers of the world to 
unite and work together for what should be recognised as a common cause. It 
was this international aspect of socialism that Father stressed throughout his 
life. As early as 1911 he had addressed a letter to the Trades Union Congress 
and Labour Representation Committee outlining his ideas for the English 
trades unions to take up the cause of working people in India but, he told his 
friend Arthur Field, the result was disappointing and disillusioning. 

The trade union movement in 1911 was very active and powerful. In was in 
that year that Keir Hardie, MP published a pamphlet, ‘Killing No Murder’ in 
which he said: 

“...The year 1911 will long be remembered for its strikes. Beginning with 
the seamen, the strike spread like an epidemic in the Middle Ages, until 
it seemed to affect every class of low-paid worker. As, however, my aim 
is to concentrate attention on matters mainly, though not exclusively, 
connected with the Railways dispute, I pass the others over, merely 
remarking that they revealed a power of cohesion and degree of class 
solidarity among the most sweated and helpless callings which no one 
suspected, and few believed possible.” 

Well, Father obviously hoped that it would be possible for that class solidarity 


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to cross national boundaries and lead to a concerted strategy with working 
people on an Empire, if not upon a global, scale. 

On November 24th and 25th, 1912, the International socialist Congress 
Against imperialist War met in Basle, called by the International socialist 
Bureau. It confirmed their stand taken in Stuttgart five years earlier: 

“The Congress appeals to you, Proletariats and socialists of all countries, 
to make your voice heard in this decisive hour! Proclaim your will in 
every form and in all places; raise your protest in the Parliaments with 
all your force; unite in great mass demonstrations; use every means that 
the organisation and strength of the proletariat place at your disposal! 
See to it that the governments are constantly kept aware of the vigilance 
and passionate will for peace on the part of the proletariat! To the 
capitalist world of exploitation and mass murder, oppose in this way the 
proletarian world of peace and fraternity of peoples!” 

This was a stirring call for international unity and action and one to which, 
there can be no doubt, Father wholeheartedly subscribed. A message of 
brotherly love, an exhortation to love thy neighbour. Had not such a request 
been made almost nineteen hundred years before? Well, I suppose we have 
progressed slightly; at least no one addressing that Congress was actually 
crucified. 

It was in 1915 that Arthur Field took Shapurji along to the City Branch of the 
Independent Labour Party and he spoke from the floor of the meeting. His 
capacity as a speaker was noted and thereafter he lectured on behalf of the ILP 
all over London and, subsequently, all over the country. As usual, his meetings 
were always well attended and his name drew large and enthusiastic audiences 
wherever he was scheduled to speak. 

In that same year he had reason to rejoice in the birth of his third son, but also 
reason to mourn for the death of Keir Hardie, with whom he had worked 
through the years and for whom he held an undying admiration. Keir Hardie’s 
gentle but passionate teaching of the socialist gospel had contributed greatly 
to Saklatvala’s unshakeable belief in the need for socialism in order to achieve 
the widest spread of human happiness. Keir Hardie had written in 1901 to 
David Lowe, “I could go on. There is so much to be said, and the desire to 
make socialism understood is growing into a passion. I see no other chance of 
redeeming the world from poverty and sin and war and lust and all manner of 


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uncleanness. But my solitary candle is burning low in its socket... Here there 
are warm hearts and peace. Where these are, Heaven is.” 

In 1916, there was the Easter Rising in Dublin by Sinn Fein and Saklatvala was 
sympathetic to their cause, for he was an ardent upholder of the right of the 
Irish to freedom and independence. 

In 1937, Arthur Field had written to my brother and I quote now from his 
letter: 

“...In 1917 Mr C.F. Ryder and Arthur Field founded the Workers’ 
Welfare League of India. At that time there were but one or two genuine 
trades unions in India, and, of course, no TUC there. Within a year, 
Saklatvala had joined this WWLI Movement, and unitedly we agitated 
and organised for a trade union movement in India and its support and 
recognition by the TU Movement in Britain. It is claimed that without 
the WWLI neither trades unions nor TUC would have arrived on the 
scene for years. As it was, they followed our agitation, and we were 
recognised as the cause, and officially thanked for the work.” 

Saklatvala no doubt used the Workers’ Welfare League of India to propagate 
the beliefs he had expressed in his letter to the TUC in 1911 and which had, 
apparently, fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes. 

1917 proved to be surely the most momentous year of the century in Europe 
and Shapurji Saklatvala watched all the developments keenly. On 16th April, 
Lenin arrived in Petrograd. On 18th April, Lenin’s ‘April Theses’ were 
submitted, thought by many to be historically more important than those 
which Martin Luther had nailed to the Church door in Wittenberg. It was 
printed on 26th April 1917 for open discussion and it caused general surprise 
and much controversy. On 15th May 1917, the new provisional government 
was formed in Russia. 

On 1st June of the same year a Great Socialist Conference was held in Leeds in 
support of the new government in Russia. The Independent Labour Party and 
the British Socialist Party translated and distributed Lenin’s writings. 
(Saklatvala was, of course, an active member of both these groups) On July 
15th 1917, half a million workers formed a demonstration of protest in Senate 
Square, Petrograd, and the Provisional government, with Tsarist soldiers, fired 
on them and killed more than four hundred. 

Documents were forged and issued which claimed to implicate Lenin in a 


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collaboration with Germany and he was forced to go into hiding for more than 
three months. On the 10th August 1917, Arthur Henderson called a Conference 
of the British Labour Party in support of the Stockholm Project and he was 
sacked from the War Cabinet. Labour delegates wishing to attend the 
Stockholm Conference were refused passports and could not, therefore, 
attend. (What price the human rights issue then?) During the autumn and 
winter of that year, Arthur Henderson and the Webbs elaborated a new 
socialist programme, more socialist in spirit than hitherto. 

The following year, 1918, the Peoples’ Russian Information Bureau was 
formed in Britain and Father joined it. Like many other socialists, he thought 
the Russian pattern was only a prelude to a radical change in the politics of the 
whole of Europe and this was a period of much hope and optimism. 

On 20th February 1918 the Inter- Allied socialist Conference on War Aims was 
held in London. There was a General Election in 1918 and Father travelled 
frequently to Leicester to give his support to the electoral campaign of Ramsay 
MacDonald, and spoke at many of his meetings. Herbert Bryan, a Daily Herald 
correspondent, who also wrote in Indian newspapers, wrote to Arthur Field 
after Father’s death: 

“...with regard to my general impression of him, I think the points that 
stand out most in my memory about [Saklatvala] are (1) his grasp of 
British political affairs and his great command of English on the 
platform, and his speaking ability in general, and, (2) the fact that he 
was absolutely tireless and never considered sparing his physical powers 
in the least if he thought there was something to be done to advance the 
cause he had at heart. I think that there can be no doubt whatever that 
he wore himself out prematurely by reason of the strain of incessant 
propaganda work and the constant travelling involved, which brought 
about his premature death. 

“The most striking instance I can remember at the moment of the way 
in which he used up his physical strength for propaganda purposes was 
during the General Election of 1918. For some time during the Election, 
Sak travelled from London to Leicester evening after evening to speak 
for Ramsay MacDonald, and travelled back again to London the same 
night...” 

At that time, Father was still working in the Tata office and did a full day’s 


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work after his nocturnal activities in Leicester. 

The following year, when he was 45, I was born and he finally achieved the 
‘baby Sehri’ he had hoped for in 1915. His adoration for the new arrival bored 
the rest of the family (my aunts and uncles) but he was at home so seldom, due 
to the load of political meetings he was addressing all over the country, that he 
became a stranger to me and I cried when he picked me up when I was still a 
baby. This caused him a good deal of anguish. But the political meetings won 
the day and he continued to travel tirelessly almost every weekend. As soon as 
I was about three, he used to take me with him on his wanderings; I still have 
vivid memories of his meetings, of visits to gypsy encampments, to coal mines 
and to mills. And, of course, the two of us got to know each other a little 
better! 

Although Arthur Field says the Workers’ Welfare League of India was founded 
in 1917, it was not until 1918 that the League published a ‘Statement of 
Principles’. On the title page of the pamphlet setting out these principles the 
office bearers are listed as follows: 

President: J.M. Parikh (a close friend of Father’s); 

Treasurer: K.P. Mehta, (as has already been said, he was Father’s closest and 
oldest friend); 

Secretary of the Indian Committee: S. Saklatvala; 

Secretary of the English Committee: John Arnall; 

General Secretary: Arthur Field. 

The statement was addressed to the British Trades and Labour Bodies; it 
would seem to be very similar in content to Father’s letter addressed in 1911 to 
leading men of the TUC (whose reaction to it had been so disappointing), and 
I feel certain that his hand is writ large on this document which I offer in full 
below: 

“This League is not associated with any political party or religious 
movement. Its chief claim is that our Oriental fellow-subjects of the 
working orders of society have a right to identical or equivalent 
measures of general welfare and labour protection as have been 
instituted for the working class in Great Britain. Whatever views may be 
taken of the soundness and adequacy of the measures of social welfare 
granted to the workpeople of Great Britain, it cannot be denied that if 


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such concessions are beneficial here these or equal measures of relief 
are still more necessary for Indian workers. 

“It is not, however, intended to adopt a doctrinaire attitude, and to 
propose the application to India of measures that may be even opposed 
by the unwilling objects of misguided philanthropy. The regulations and 
enactments to be proposed will be discussed point by point by Indian 
and English committees of this League. The essential part of the 
League’s propaganda is the movement to secure from the people of this 
country a recognition of the right of the people of India to equal 
consideration with themselves. 

“There is a considerable mass of otherwise fair-minded men and women 
in this country who exhibit little or no consideration for peoples of a 
different colour from themselves, even when performing similar 
services as subjects of the same Empire. Most British citizens declare 
their belief in the righteousness of democracy, yet many of them see no 
absurdity in limiting its application by the shade of a man’s or a 
woman’s skin. 

“It must not be presumed from our insistence on the conditions of 
workers in factories, mines, etc. (who, in India, form but a small part of 
the population), that we neglect the questions of agriculture and 
agricultural labour, of the Indian Lascars [that is, the maritime 
workers], etc. 

“From England an impetus can be imparted to initiate far-reaching 
changes for the masses in India. It is a good and proper thing for a 
Home government to defer to the opinion of the Dependency, but in the 
course of this proper procedure the opinion that now prevails is the 
opinion of the merchants and of the manufacturers. The former are not 
favourable to any proposal that tends to alter the simple and 
unambitious masses. The latter, in the face of the experience of the 
whole world, believe that cheap labour profits them. If legislation, even 
the mildest, is proposed, they believe the English authorities are trying 
to spoil Indian industries. 

“The opposition to reform is not exclusively from these directions. 
Opposition to the Viceroy’s Bill of 1906 for extending the Factory Act 
also arose from persons who advocate self-government and claim to be 


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democratic. There is even an element of mistaken self-interest in some 
English working-class circles promoting a toleration of present 
conditions of Indian labour. Against this pressure of interest and 
ignorance the best intentioned proposals in the Home Legislature can 
succeed only by the organised influence of the British working classes. 
“Such efforts, in the opinion of the League, should be directed to 
improvements of as general an application as possible— industrial, 
agricultural and educational. British democracy might be able to secure 
the appointment of a Labour Minister for India in the Parliament of 
Great Britain, with the effect of providing a channel for Indian opinion 
of a different character from that which now prevails. 

“The work of the League lies clear before it, but the further stages need 
not be more minutely defined at present. Well organised effort can 
undoubtedly influence British opinion to care about matters that would 
otherwise be neglected. Such an effort is now inaugurated on behalf of 
the British subjects in India. The people of Great Britain must be 
convinced that their own interests are in no way opposed to, and are 
even bound up with, a just and generous treatment of their Eastern 
brothers and sisters.” 

After giving details of subscriptions and membership of the League, 
there follows a further address from ‘The TU and Labour Section of the 
League to the Trades and Labour Bodies of Great Britain.’ This reads: 
“The Workers’ Welfare League of India feel that the democracy of Great 
Britain has unwisely neglected to keep touch with the working people of 
the Empire. By such neglect they lose in moral, national, and democratic 
strength. By neglecting the conditions of the industrial and agricultural 
workers in India they have made it possible for their employers to work 
industries in India against industries in England. In this case mutual 
safety dictates an immediate study of the problem. There is danger of a 
deliberate competition of Indian with English conditions, unless steps 
are taken to discuss and improve the conditions in India. 

“It is not presumptuous or futile to attempt to undertake such a work, 
for the control of India lies, and will for some years continue to lie, with 
the Legislature in England, while the democratic elements here are 
gaining an increasing share in the control of affairs. 


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“The workers in Great Britain have been, as participators in the British 
Empire, discussing questions of the most far-reaching importance. At 
such a juncture, when every co-operation is essential, instead of a voice 
from India we are confronted by a dumb people, so far as Labour is 
concerned. 

“This leaves it possible for declarations to be made, in the name of 
India, that this or that trifling change is not only necessary but sufficient 
to satisfy India’s needs. We also find this type of advocates declaring 
that the people of India will greatly resent an extension of Labour 
legislation, and that it is unnecessary; while they themselves resent 
suggestions of improved conditions and increased wages. We feel 
instinctively that this attitude is unjustified, but until we investigate we 
cannot say we know. We must end this practice of neglecting to secure 
verified British -Indian opinion and co-operation. These being available 
through the Workers’ Welfare League of India, we invite the help of the 
TU and Labour world in the circulation and utilisation of the 
information available. 

“The Trade Unions and other organisations that consider this appeal 
will naturally ask, ‘What do you expect us to do?’ Our reply is, we ask 
you to allow one of yourselves on your Committee to devote himself to 
purely British-Indian Labour questions, and he might also make himself 
incidentally useful by a study of Labour conditions in other Oriental 
countries, which may equally affect Labour in Great Britain and British 
India. If you cannot spare a committee-man’s activities for these 
purposes, we suggest that you co-opt a special member for the purpose. 
When appointed he should be entrusted with the following duties: 

(A) To ascertain what are the conditions of Indian Labour in the 
corresponding industries in India. 

(B) To collect proposals for the amendment of Indian conditions. 

(C) To examine how far, if at all, the interests of English Labour are 
affected by inequitable conditions of Indian Labour. 

(D) To condense the data and briefly report to the Committee from time 
to time. 

“With the special member thus appointed the TU and Labour Section of 
the League is prepared to keep in touch, acting gratuitously as a Bureau 


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of Information relative to Oriental Labour. 

“As the result of continued deliberation, we hope to arrive at an 
organised presentation of suggestions and proposals to the Labour 
members in Parliament. We hope that the Trade Unions may eventually 
combine to send to India a Commissioner to investigate the subject on 
the various localities, and gather facts otherwise unobtainable. The 
result of a ready co-operation of the trade and Labour organisations in 
this effort of the WWLI might even be the appointment, by their own 
vote and initiative, of a permanent official on their behalf, and under 
their own control, to keep in constant touch with the members for 
Oriental Labour Questions on each of the TU Committees.” (Documents 
relating to the WWLI appear as Appendix A to this chapter.) 

In that same year (1918), Saklatvala was a delegate to the Independent Labour 
Party Conference, where he represented the City of London Branch. It may be 
of general interest, in view of the Labour Party’s subsequent repudiation of 
Communist sympathies and the often hysterical eschewing of any links with 
Marxism, that in that year, the Chairman’s address included the following 
exhortation: 

“‘The first Sunday in May, which has been for so long specially 
dedicated by the socialist movement to Internationalism, is this year the 
centenary of the birth of Karl Marx. In normal times, the socialist 
movement would have taken advantage of this event to do honour to 
one of the greatest names in the history of Socialism, but, at a time like 
this, it is especially fitting that we should recognise the work of the man 
who was the pioneer of Internationalism. We desire, however, that 
branches of the ILP should, this year more than ever, set aside the first 
Sunday in May for international demonstrations, and that at such 
demonstrations special reference should be made to the life and labours 
for International Socialism of Karl Marx, and to the indebtedness of the 
proletariat for his great services to Socialism and Internationalism. In 
the name of the Party we propose to arrange for a wreath to be laid at 
his graveside, and to take such other steps as seem advisable to pay 
homage to his memory.’ 

“John Scurr, representing Bow and Bromley then moved: 

‘“That the demand of the Indian people to be recognised as equal 


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partners within the British Commonwealth is essentially democratic and 
that to realise the ideal each country must have the opportunity for self 
determination. This Conference, therefore, demands that a measure 
granting self government to the Indian people be placed on the Statute 
Book at the earliest opportunity.’ 

“In moving the resolution, Mr Scurr said there was one matter to which 
he would like to refer. In a certain newspaper, mention has been made 
of the foreign accents of delegates of that Conference. The one delegate 
to whom that reference could refer was Shapurji Saklatvala, a native of 
Bombay, and, therefore, a subject of the British Empire, and in every 
sense of the word entitled to the same rights and privileges as 
themselves. He happened to be a journalist himself, but he sometimes 
had to admit that he belonged to the most dishonourable profession in 
the world; and that there should be in a so-called leading newspaper 
such a reference showed the reliance they could place on everything else 
which a paper of that kind might say. The resolution was agreed. 
“Shapurji Saklatvala (City of London), then moved: 

“‘That this Conference requests all members of the Party who take an 
active interest in and aid the work of the Indian National Congress, and 
who propose delegations from Indian bodies to British Labour 
Conferences, to call upon their Indian colleagues to give a place in their 
political programmes to Democratic measures which they so far have 
opposed or neglected, such as ‘no representation on Councils in India 
except by popular election’; immediate legislation to improve the hours, 
wages and general conditions of workers; and an open advocacy of the 
Nationalisation of Lands, Railways, Mines, and other large and 
important industries.’ 

“Mr Saklatvala said he was not there to carry on a fight for any one class 
in India, he was there as a socialist, a sincere, ernest, whole-hearted 
believer and supporter of the policy of the Independent Labour Party. 
He could not help it that his accent was a little foreign, but his heart was 
not foreign. Those of his comrades who had known him since he joined 
the Party in 1909 would know that he only wanted to do one thing, and 
that was to spread socialism from one end of the world to the other. 

“The National Organiser had told them that it should be possible to 


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make the membership of the Independent Labour Party 100,000. It 
might go much further. The people of India suffered from ignorance, not 
ill-will. They were essentially socialist in mind, and his imagination 
carried him to the time when the Independent Labour Party might have 
ten million members. 

“When Mr [Ramsey] MacDonald was proposing the resolution on the 
Soldiers’ Charter, he did not think that it was in the remotest part of 
their minds that while they were talking of 27s 6d allowance, they who 
were responsible for the soldiers’ pensions in India were guilty of paying 
a pension of 5s (5 shillings) a month and a separation allowance of 10s 
(10 shillings) a month. They were guilty of giving compensation of £5 to 
£10 to the families of those who had lost their lives. They did not realise 
it. They had not asked the Indian National Congress during the four 
years of war to move any peace resolution. They had put on their list 
eight million voters, yet they had not asked their Indian friends to put 
eight voters on the list. He therefore appealed to them to be more 
definite in talk of Internationalism. They should realise the duty that 
was before all of them of looking to themselves and the opportunities 
that were before them. 

“The resolution was agreed to.” 

During the period of the suffragette movement, certainly from as early as 1908 
when he participated in a protest rally and march in Hyde Park, Saklatvala 
was closely associated with the movement and was a great admirer of Sylvia 
Pankhurst’s leadership. But from 1917 onward, Sylvia Pankhurst became a 
passionate devotee of communism as she felt that events in Russia presented 
the working classes with a completely new social structure that could alleviate 
the deprivations of poverty, so acutely manifesting themselves during the war. 
She changed the name of the newspaper of which she was editor from The 
Women’s Dreadnought to The Workers’ Dreadnought. Father was a regular 
reader of this paper. Later, she also changed the name of her organisation 
from The Workers’ Suffrage Federation, to The Workers’ Socialist Federation. 
Later still, in 1919, when the Third International was formed in Moscow, 
Pankhurst became a dedicated advocate of affiliation of British socialists to the 
Third International. She went even further than most socialists of her time 
and refused to participate in parliamentary activity, actually turning down the 


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offer of becoming a parliamentary candidate. (This attitude was not upheld by 
Lenin and she was much criticised within the Communist fold.) While, clearly, 
Saklatvala was against the boycotting of parliamentary procedures, he 
remained a friend and admiring political colleague of Sylvia Pankhurst, 
respecting her courage, dedication and sincerity. 

At the ILP Conference the following year, 1919, Saklatvala was once again a 
delegate for the City of London Branch, and heard the following stirring 
address by the Chairman, Mr Philip Snowden: 

“The last year has been crowded with events of tremendous importance. 
We have seen the beginning of the end of the old order of class 
domination and economic slavery. The new order is being born in blood 
and suffering. Slowly and painfully humanity has climbed the hard road 
to the summit of Calvary, but the resurrection to the new life of freedom 
and brotherhood is at hand. Over two thirds of Europe the Red Flag of 
socialism, red with the blood of our martyred dead, floats where but 
yesterday despotism held the people in vile subjection. The mighty 
reverberations of the Russian Revolution have sounded through the 
world, 

‘And the slave, where’er he cowers, 
feels the soul within him climb 
To the awful verge of manhood, 
as the energy sublime 
Of a century bursts full-blossomed 
on the thorny stem of time.’ 

[Quote from James Russell Lowell, The Present Crisis ] 

“With prophetic insight, the Independent Labour Party, in its manifesto 
issued on the outbreak of war in August 1914, said: ‘In forcing this 
appalling crime upon the nations, it is the rulers and diplomats, the 
militarists, who have sealed their doom. In tears and blood and 
bitterness the greater democracy will be born. With steadfast faith we 
greet the future; our cause is holy and imperishable, and the labour of 
our hands has not been in vain.’ 

“The state of the world today is a fulfilment of that prophesy.” 

In reply to various other points raised, the chairman said that the National 
Administrative Council of the ILP were watching the international situation 


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very closely, and they hoped to put before the Conference some statement 
giving an outline of its suggested reconstitution. The NAC looked upon the 
matter with very grave concern, and, if events did develop to such an extent as 
in their opinion to call for a special Conference of the Party, such a Conference 
would be called. Saklatvala requested the NAC, when they did call this special 
Conference, to be prepared with a proposal by which the rank and file of the 
Labour Party might be induced to remove from the Labour Party those men 
who were the obstacles, to the spirit of socialism. 

The chairman read the following resolution: 

“‘This Conference demands the withdrawal of British troops from 
Ireland, and the recognition of that form of government which is desired 
by the Irish people. It further regards the claims of the Indian and 
Egyptian peoples to self-government as essentially just, and demands 
that they be granted at the earliest opportunity.’ 

“Shapurji Saklatvala, in supporting the resolution, said he had to ask 
them to read much more into the resolution than appeared in the 
wording, and also, owing to the shortness of time, he had to ask them to 
hear much more in his words than merely the words he spoke. 

“The whole position was this— a foreign domination existed in a country 
which had nothing in common with them. They might wonder that from 
time to time people in India had acquiesced in their presence in the 
country. The true reason was not because they were enamoured with 
Lord Curzon or Lord Hardinge, but now and again they had seen on the 
horizon an Englishman like Keir Hardie. 

“When they had seen a Ramsay MacDonald, and had pinned their faith 
in Philip Snowden, they had been living in hopes that England was full 
of Englishmen like these, and it was for this reason alone that India had 
acquiesced in the presence of the British. His demoralised, unarmed 
and tyrannised countrymen, through fear, had launched out to assist the 
jingoes of Great Britain in the war. They had become partners in a 
hideous crime. No sooner was the war over than the imperialist, 
militarist rulers of India gave to India Rowlatt Acts, and the very 
aeroplanes and armoured cars they had presented to the British 
government were used against an innocent and unarmed crowd. Bombs 
had been dropped on meetings held in the streets, and 250 casualties 


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were admitted. These Rowlatt Acts were given to India in the name of 
Great Britain. Did the British men and women identify themselves with 
such militarist acts? 

“Speaking of the capitalist exploitation as the cause of the troubles of 
the Indian people, Mr Saklatvala quoted from the results of a particular 
enquiry into the monthly expenses of 11,000 workers; for a family of 
five,— father, mother and 3 children— the expenses, regulated by wages, 
were as follows: 12s 6d (12 shillings and sixpence) per month for rice for 
father, mother and 3 children, 4s 6d a month for meat, fish and mutton, 
9d per month for butter, oils and sauce; is 7d per month for vegetables. 
“They wanted the solidarity of the Labour of Great Britain with the 
Labour of India. 

“The resolution was carried.” 

In a letter addressed to my brother about a year after my father’s death, Lord 
Snowden wrote: 

“...I first knew your father before he joined the ILP when he was 
connected with the India Reform Movement. Afterwards he joined the 
ILP. Then he was a prominent figure at the annual conferences of the 
ILP. Later he became a Communist and, as you know, entered 
Parliament as a Communist MP. He was quite a figure in the House of 
Commons, and made an impression by his volcanic eloquence... I had a 
high regard for his honesty and disinterested sincerity... His 
comparatively early death was a real grief to me.” 

With the new international scene that was emerging after the Russian 
Revolution, factions arose within the ILP, some members being fiercely in 
favour of affiliation with the Third International and others being equally 
fiercely opposed to such affiliation. Saklatvala was, of course, a strenuous and 
vociferous advocate for affiliation. In 1920 he was not a delegate at the annual 
conference of the ILP and his attempt to be elected to the National 
Administrative Council was unsuccessful. This may well have been due to his 
pro-affiliation propaganda within the City of London Branch. He was one of 
159 signatories to a Declaration of the Left Wing of the ILP, made in 1920 
under the heading ‘The Call of the Third International.’ (The text of this 
document appears as Appendix B to this chapter.) 

[Editor’s note: Around this time, Saklatvala became acquainted with John 

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Archer, then Mayor of Battersea, and the first person of African descent to 
hold public office in Britain. According to Marc Wadsworth, Archer promoted 
Shapurji’s 1922 candidacy for parliament within the Labour Party. See 
‘Comrade Sak: A Political Biography’]. 

At the 1921 Annual Conference of the ILP we see him appearing as a delegate 
for Clapham. This would seem to indicate that he had perhaps already left the 
City of London Branch and joined the Branch in Clapham, but there is no hard 
evidence for this assumption. Both Herbert Bryan and Arthur Field gave their 
version of events leading up to Saklatvala’s resignation from the ILP but 
neither of them gave any precise dates. I quote them both below. 

Extract from a letter from Herbert Bryan, written to Arthur Field in 1937: 

“After the war, a movement arose in the ILP in favour of affiliation of 
the Party to the Third International. Sak took a leading part in this 
movement, and when the proposal to join the Third International was 
rejected by the ILP Annual Conference, Sak left the ILP and joined the 
Communist Party. Before leaving the ILP, however, he moved a 
resolution at the City Branch meeting to the effect that the Branch 
should secede from the ILP and become the City of London socialist 
Society. This proposal was rejected by the Branch.” 

Extract from a letter from Arthur Field to my brother in 1937: 

“The Menshevik Revolt of Russia in 1917— and its effect in England 
(Council of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers)— found us forwarding it— 
but pressing for more radical developments. The Bolshevik victory in 
Russia in 1918, both of us saw, ...must mean our plunge into a red union 
at the earliest moment. The British Socialist Party became the British 
Section of the Third Communist International, and we tried to get the 
very advanced men of the National Administrative Council of the ILP to 
press the national body to affiliate. With the rejection of the proposal by 
the Annual Conference of the ILP, the walk-out of the reds occurred and 
Saklatvala joined the CP...” 

“At the Annual Conference of the ILP in 1921, Saklatvala represented 
the Clapham Branch. Speaking in the debate on the international 
situation and in particular as to whether the ILP should or should not 
affiliate with the Third International, he said he did not intervene to 
urge upon one section or the other to strive to gain a sectional victory. 


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He asked them to bear in mind socialism. As one of those fortunate 
foreigners, might he put it to the Conference to imagine the effects of 
the decisions they might take on the outside world. 

“There was not the slightest doubt that in the twenty-one conditions [of 
admission to the International, see below] there was some attack on 
their traditional emotions. Had the ILP succeeded in going to 
Zimmerwald [British socialists were prevented from travelling there in 
1915], the history of the International might have been different, but 
they had also been guilty of taking up a provocative attitude at a critical 
juncture, and they had been responsible for a portion of the bitterness in 
those twenty-one points. He would apologise to Comrade MacDonald 
for taking him as an illustration. MacDonald stood as an avowed official 
secretary of the Second International. With his own characteristic 
temperament he would be the last person to accept an official position 
in the Second and in the Third. There would be, as the American 
Divorce Act expressed it, ‘incompatibility of temperament’, and, sooner 
or later, one or the other would have to apply to the Courts for divorce 
papers. 

“The Third International did not ask them to deport him after the 
manner of Lloyd George. All they said was that comrades with such 
convictions should not hold offices, and he thought the one person in 
the Conference who would agree with him was Comrade MacDonald 
himself. 

“He would say to his pacifist comrades, to his comrades to whom 
human life was sacred and dear, turn to Amritsar, where in half-an-hour 
General Dyer poured his bullets out until he had killed 1200 people for 
the simple reason that the whole of that unfortunate crowd was 
unarmed. 

“There was nothing to prevent them from putting their point of view 
before the Third International, but when the majority of the members of 
the International had decided upon their policy and their constitution, it 
must remain binding on the minority, otherwise no organisation in the 
world could continue to exist. 

“Capitalism was stronger than it was five years ago. Imperialism in 
Great Britain had not only not been destroyed, but had not even been 

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arrested at the point at which they found it before the war. British 
Imperialism, with its great idealist opponent, the ILP, had managed to 
get a million more square miles. British militarism today had reached 
the highest point of brutal bestiality, and had gone beyond all bounds of 
honour. 

“If that was the potency of ILP idealism, why were they offended when 
others came and said, ‘Keep your idealism, but make it more potent’? 
He would, therefore, appeal to them to go to Moscow, accept the twenty- 
one points, and those who felt the points were too bitter, swallow them.” 
The twenty-one points referred to are given as Appendix C to this chapter. 

This 1921 Conference of the ILP, in rejecting the proposed affiliation with the 
Third International, was for Father, a momentous one. Although he did not 
make up his mind in haste, the rejection by the ILP of affiliation left him, now 
a convinced Communist, little choice. His devotion up to this moment to the 
ILP was beyond doubt and he had served it wholeheartedly since 1909 and 
had many close friends within it. He had been one of their staunchest and 
most vigorous propagandists addressing numberless meetings up and down 
the country; as a speaker, he always drew big crowds and his oratory had 
served the party well. (At an earlier conference he had said that he envisaged a 
day when ten million Indian members would join the ILP.) 

The conference ended on the 29th March and he returned home from 
Stockport a lonely and much saddened man. He had become alienated from 
comrades with whom he had hitherto shared his political ideals and 
aspirations. He had worked tirelessly to persuade them to accept affiliation 
and he had failed. It was, to say the least, disillusioning. Of course he was to 
have his communist colleagues now, but he had hoped that old friends and 
new friends would affiliate and remain in one body together. The schism was a 
painful wrench to him. 

Almost exactly a year before, on the 3rd April 1920, his father had died in 
Manchester. They had been very close and his death had left Shapurji with 
none of his Indian family near him in England. And now his constant 
association with old political allies and friends, some of whom had known him 
almost from the time of his first arrival in this country, was to be severed. It 
was a bitter blow and he must have felt very isolated— for now he only had the 
loved and loving Sehri as an unquestioning and ever-present supporter of any 


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decisions he might feel compelled to make. 

Concurrently with his work with the Independent Labour Party, he was 
working with equal fervour for the London Labour Party, of which he was an 
active member, regularly attending and participating in their meetings and 
conferences. 

At one such meeting on 16th September 1920, applications for affiliation to the 
Third International were considered, together with a letter from the National 
Agent reporting the refusal of the Labour Party to accept. It was unanimously 
decided that the applications could not be acceded to, and the Secretary was 
instructed to send a suitable letter stating the grounds for the refusal. 

Two months later, at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Party, the 
Secretary reported on various matters connected with the Conference and it 
was resolved: 

1) That Mr Saklatvala be informed that he may run for both Executive 
and Auditor, but that he could only serve in one such capacity... 

3) That the Secretary make the fullest use, in his discretion, of the 
extracts from the Convention at which the Communist Party was 
formed, in the Labour Chronicle... 

5) That the request of the Communist Party for a representative to 
address the Conference on the question of their affiliation be declined 
on the grounds that it would be ultra vires. 

On 3rd March 1921, a few days before the fateful ILP Conference, the 
Executive Committee of the London Labour Party decided that the Party 
should not be represented at the conference called by the Workers’ Welfare 
League of India. 

It was also decided that Battersea Trades Council be informed that the London 
Labour Party has no constitutional status in so far as the endorsement of 
parliamentary candidates is concerned, and that the terms of Resolution 19 
regarding the Communist Party be quoted for the information of Battersea 
Trades Council. 

Although it is not stated that this has anything to do with Father’s 
parliamentary candidature, I think we can safely assume that it had. But, at 
that time, even his formal membership of the Communist Party did not debar 
him from standing as a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party in the 


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General Election of the following year. 

Let us, therefore, move on now to that General Election and Saklatvala’s years 
as a member of Parliament. 


in 



Appendix A to Chapter 7: Statement 
of the Workers’ Welfare League of 

India, 1919 


Statement Submitted to the Joint Committee on Indian Reforms on Behalf of 
The Workers’ Welfare League of India. 

By Shapurji Saklatvala supported by Duncan Carmichael. 

Published by The Workers’ Welfare League of India, 18 Featherstone 
Buildings, High Holborn, London. 

To The Chairman, The Joint Committee of the Houses of Parliament on 
the government of India Bill, House of Commons, Westminster, dated 
22nd July, 1919. 

My Lord, 

I am directed by the Council of the Workers’ Welfare League of India, to 
offer myself as a witness before your Committee, and to bring to your 
Lordship’s attention the peculiar claims of the League as the only body 
that combines in it the actual knowledge of Indian economic conditions 
with practical experience of the working of British Labour organisations 
in this country. 

The League devotes its attention and activities to the betterment of the 
condition of workers, including peasantry in all parts of India with the 
object of securing some approximation to the standards which prevail in 
all civilised parts of the world. The League, as a general Labour 
organisation is not unmindful of the disastrous consequences that must 
ensue generally to the progress of Labour, and therefore to the material 
well-being of the masses in Great Britain and the British Colonies by the 
continued degraded conditions of their fellow-workers in India. 

The League for the first time submits, as no other body has hitherto 


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done, the grave, almost catastrophic situation that is being created 
against a solid industrial advancement and social civic progress within 
the Empire by utilising millions of additional persons for production of 
modern requirements of life by up-to-date Western methods, without 
permitting these very millions to be in their turn the additional 
consumers of those or other similar products, or to partake of the new 
social and political privileges that are being evolved, as an effect of and 
that are intended to be maintained by these material productions. 

The League is carefully constituted with two component parts standing 
together on one common moral and economic platform where the moral 
and material interests of the two groups, one Indian, and the other 
European, do not clash, but will harmonise together and which unitedly 
must essentially form one British standard in a British Empire, and the 
absence of which should draw away from Great Britain any excuse for 
direct or mandatory control over other countries. The Indian section 
with its Indian knowledge and Indian sentiment and the English section 
with its advanced experience form in equal halves our united Council. 
The latter section join the League on account of its existing economic 
relations with, knowledge of, or partiality for the Indian fellow-workers, 
and the former or the Indian section is formed from such Indian 
residents in this country who have relations with, knowledge of, or 
partiality for Labour organisations in this country. 

My Council in directing me to submit their united British Case to you, 
not only bear in mind my information on Indian economic and Labour 
conditions but they also take in view my fairly long and active 
membership of the National Union of Clerks, The Independent Labour 
Party, the British socialist Party, the Labour Party, and similar 
organisations, which feature, your Lordship will perceive, is not existing 
in case of Indian representatives of purely Indian bodies, or other 
individual members offering their evidence. 

In the proposed government of India Bill my League foresees a further 
and accelerating accentuation of the evil that the League is formed to 
combat against. On the one hand it ignores all rights and direct powers 
to peasants and workers, and on the other hand it enhances existing 
privileges, and creates new powers for a limited group of persons, who, 


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however well-intentioned and well-meaning, have throughout the 
world, through a false nervousness in the direction of self-preservation, 
and through an absorbing attention to one particular phase of limited 
‘progress’, have created and are creating a condition ‘where only wealth 
accumulates and men decay.’ 

If after more than one hundred years of settled British Rule in India 
need is felt to further ‘reform’ the government of India, all attention and 
energy in the main must be directed to those phases of life and 
government which have so far obtained the least progressive measures 
and democratic consideration. 

We consider any measure of government Reform not only incomplete 
but unthinkable for a government that claims to be civilised, never mind 
Democratic, that does not pin its faith in the progress of the masses and 
by the efforts of the workers themselves in unison with all the workers 
within the same Empire, and even in the neighbouring states. To treat, 
today, in India, after all the mature experiences in Europe, suffering 
Labour as not worthy of self-assertive rights, and to create higher 
powers and privileges for the happier portion in the same society, is like 
transferring the sweepings of old Europe into India under disguise of 
giving to India a set of reforms and progressive and evolutionary 
measures along lines of Western culture. 

If the bold and right measure of referring the whole Bill back to the 
government for re-construction on modern basis be not acceptable, my 
League would consider the following amendments as absolutely 
essential: 

(a) Introduction of popular franchise for Indians that would include all 
workers and soldiers. 

(b) Questions of Labour Legislation to be treated as indivisible British 
Empire questions, under the protection of the Imperial Parliament, 
similar to the questions of Army, Navy and Foreign Policy, and 
suspension of any transfer of power over lives of millions of Indian 
Workers to the control of the Indian or European non-labouring classes 
in India, before the workers are given full franchise rights in India. 

(c) From the commencement of the new Councils there must be 
statutory recognition of the right of the workers to combine. 


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(d) All the old laws and regulations that humiliate Labour, that make 
Labour punishable criminally for Labour faults, or that make a person’s 
service compulsory instead of a free-will contract, should be abolished 
or withdrawn forthwith, and made a matter of the barbarous and 
oppressive past, viz.: such legislation as the Assam Emigration Act, the 
Madras Planters’ Labour Act, and regulations and practice of 
Impressment of Labour, Indentured Labour, and recruitment of Labour 
by Agents of private companies with direct or indirect forms of 
government assistance. 

(e) A system of Indian Labour Ministry in Parliament, with similar 
Ministries in all the new Councils of India be introduced, with an 
understanding of such posts being given preferentially to persons that 
are connected with and experienced in British Labour organisations; 
and also the intercourse of British and Indian Labour through 
recognised agents of British Trade Unions for communion between 
Indian and British bodies, as well as for communications with the 
Indian Ministries be recognised and accepted, both as a material and 
moral support to Indian Labour, and also in view of the repercussion of 
Indian conditions on Labour conditions of the United Kingdom. 

(f) The practice of safe-guarding Labour interests through nominees of a 
government, in the election of which Labour has no direct vote, should 
not only be condemned, but should be admitted as one stage worse for 
Labour interests, than leaving Labour altogether unrepresented. 

(g) Some immediate reforms in the indefensible rates of wages, and 
hours of work for the employees of the government of India themselves, 
which conditions have been briefly described in the memorandum 
submitted by the League to Mr Secretary Montagu on 25th January last, 
and a copy of which is attached herewith. 

My League is aware of some of the erroneous ideas that exist against the 
above suggestions, and I am prepared on their behalf to show by 
evidence, the groundlessness of fears, and interests that seek to prevent 
the introduction of these reforms. 

Some illustrative fallacious contentions may be briefly reviewed as 
under: 

(a) Indian workers should be denied franchise on account of their 


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illiteracy: 

Literacy has never been made the sine qua non condition of franchise 
rights. The Reform Acts and other Acts from 1830 to 1870 enfranchised 
large numbers of illiterate persons in this country. It is the absence of 
the vote that is responsible for the negligence of educational rights and 
facilities. If society is made to suffer from illiterate voters, it will expel 
illiteracy, if Society is permitted to protect itself by boycotting illiterate 
persons, it will take up their cause in a leisurely fashion. The Indian 
village worker, though illiterate, is far from being uncultured. The latest 
revolution in Russia proves at least one thing, that an illiterate Asiatic 
when given a vote and voice in state affairs, is capable of appreciating 
and enjoying it to the extent of living up to it, fighting for it, and dying 
for it, as ardently as his literate European comrade. 

(b) Indian Labour questions must be treated as quite separate Indian 
questions from the Indian point of view alone, and are not of the nature 
of questions of Foreign Policy, the Army and the Navy. 

Our Foreign Policy, Imperialism, the Army, the Navy are all maintained 
to support and safeguard the material welfare of the state and to defend 
as well as to increase the industrial activity of the Empire. Labour, the 
most important factor of Industry, is therefore the life and soul of 
everything, and the intelligent union and undivided progress of the 
Empire’s Labour is a question of Sovereign and Imperial importance of 
the first magnitude. 

Conditions of modern industries within the Empire are almost uniform, 
the interiors of factories, mines, dockyards, etc., being almost the same 
with the same tax on human mind and body. The Companies’ Acts that 
safeguard the interests of investors are uniform. The Indian managers, 
directors, merchants, investors and large dividend earners, large land 
proprietors, lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc., have all changed their 
lives, housing, food, clothing, etc., and brought them in close 
approximation to the lives of modern merchants and masters in Europe, 
thus proving the advantageous applicability of a uniform standard of life 
for Europeans and Indians engaged in the same professions or trades. 

(c) The government may claim that they do not prevent any legitimate 
and constitutional labour activity. 

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The existing repressive measures are capable of destroying any activity. 
In the initial stages, any well-intended labour programme of a really 
independent character, free from master-class wire-pulling, would 
arouse political suspicions, and would be crushed by existing laws even 
before germination. It is absolutely essential to have distinct legislation 
framed to sanction labour activities along the lines of British standards. 
A statutory sanction is different from a benevolent acquiescence or of 
not putting into operation existing harsh measure or regulation. 

(d) Excuse may be held forth, that the old laws and regulations, more 
worthy of a pirate chief than of a settled government within the country, 
are no longer put into operation with their early days’ rigour, and things 
are different, etc., etc. 

We are talking of Reforms. No reforms are British reforms that do not 
immediately do away with un- British principles and laws enacted under 
stress of war-like conditions. British Labour is British Labour, here or in 
India, and several of these Indian Acts are an insult to, and an outrage 
upon British Labour, offered by a ruling caste that did not view labour 
very differently from slavery. To save the British name, reform of this 
unspeakable condition is of primary importance. 

(e) India is not ripe for Labour Ministry, etc., etc. 

Any antidote is required most where the evil is the greatest and acutest. 
Ministries of Labour are more needful in backward countries than in 
forward ones. To set out today to create a new machinery of government 
along lines of Western culture and modern standards, and to omit a 
specialised and separate Ministry of Labour, independent of commercial 
interest, is, to say the least, a very grave omission. 

(f) Labour being backward in India, the government desire to give them 
protection through a suitable nominee, and care will be taken to select a 
very disinterested gentleman, etc., etc. 

Even in this country, we notice that it is not the person’s previous career 
which makes him appear ‘suitable’— but it is the medium through which 
he gets into a position, that moulds his political and administrative 
psychology in his future work. In all conscience a government cannot 
escape from its own view-point and the customary nervousness attached 
to responsibility of a small class ruling over a large mass, and the more 


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honest and careful the selection of a nominee the more fatal in the long 
run, it proves to the interest of the protected ones. A free, healthy 
control by electors’ votes is the only known means to check political 
deterioration. An absence of an elected agent to protect an interest is a 
drawback, but the fact of such absence throws an amount of risk as well 
as responsibility upon the one-sided administrative force. The presence 
of a nominee selected by those against whom protection is to be sought 
becomes a positive calamity by your opponent thereby securing your so- 
called assent and sometimes even your thanks, for undesirable 
measures, through this dangerous medium. 

(g) The government might argue that they based the wages on prevailing 
standards, and did give even a low wage to villagers who previously had 
none. 

No government is justified in comparing a condition of bygone days 
with the present. Free of control from without, every country undergoes 
changes and evolves from one stage into another. The government of 
India, in perpetuating an old system, set a bad example to private 
traders, and then adopting the traders’ standard, continues the 
perniciously low wage system for ever. The villagers’ life conditions are 
changed, but his life standards are forcibly maintained unaltered. From 
a quiet, leisurely, uncontrolled, free-will, non-nerve-wracking cottage 
industry, he is moved into modern mines, factories and places of work, 
demanding different exactions from his mind, body and morals, and the 
government set no new standard of life for him, subject him to newly 
created miseries of poverty, filth, of ignorance, etc., which in his 
previous condition were absent. 

Every industry in India is capable of bearing a much higher wage today. 
The selling price of articles produced and the commercial value of public 
services, such as transport, post, police, etc., are today subject to the law 
of world prices, and give to controlling interests almost the values in 
India as in Europe. A glance at the record of Indian concerns as given in 
the attached copy of the Capital is sufficient to convince one that Indian 
industrial concerns can spare a bigger margin for workers’ wages. The 
government must first reform its own methods before legislating for 
others. On moral grounds the government of India should seek this 

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reform before any other, unless it prefers to court contempt or ridicule 
from the civilised world, which has not yet fully realised the very low 
level of Indian wages. 

Here is one instance, the President of the General Electric Company of 
Schektady— America, in his capacity as the Chairman when, speaking at 
the Annual Meeting of the Institute of Electrical Engineers in 1918 held 
up to the contempt of the world the German government that in 
occupied territories in Russia, was employing Russian labour at two 
roubles a day for ten hours daily. Should not the government of India 
reform itself even to this contemptible standard? Is the world’s opinion 
never to effect it harmfully? The Postal Rate in India should be exactly 
what it is in Britain, because the Investor and the Trader uses the Post 
Office for similar profits as here, and not the illiterate population of 300 
millions out of 320 millions. Out of this excess revenue the Indian Post 
Office Worker must be paid at the rate of Rupees 15 a week at least. 
Similarly the government Railway Worker, Policemen, Soldiers, Village 
Teachers, Public Works Labourers could all be put on the 15 Rupees 
Weekly Standard, and rates and taxes on commercial communities duly 
increased and brought up to British Standard. The hours of work should 
be reduced under the Reform of government of India Bill immediately 
to ten from 12, and then a further annual reduction of one hour every 
year, till a limit of 8 is reached. 

With better wages and greater leisure the wage earner will become a 
consumer of goods, and a caretaker of his own house and sanitary 
surroundings. His demand will largely increase industrial activity, 
industrial taxation, and public revenues, and the fictitious plea of 
poverty, which in a nature’s rich country can only mean bad banking, of 
the government of India will vanish, and India will acquire a British 
Standard of life, which will irresistibly be followed by a British Standard 
of government and Politics. The present method of reforming the 
government of India from the top is unnatural, unhealthy, and unjust 
not only to India, but even to the Empire. 

My League declines to accept the plea of cheap living in favour of low 
wages. Cheap living is a myth, and even if it were true, could only base 
itself in deceiving the food-grower by giving him such poor 


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remuneration for his toil, that he cannot maintain himself and his 
children in a standard of modern comfort and modern decency. But this 
cheap living does not exist. The law of world prices levelises selling 
prices. Prices of wheat, rice, oilseeds, clothing, even meat, etc., are fixed 
after a daily telegraphic exchange of views among all the merchants of 
the world. Scientific advancement that produces preserved bananas, 
tinned fruit and fish, powdered eggs and milk, tends towards levelising 
prices of what used to be perishable articles. 

The Indian workers’ cheap living is not based on his actually obtaining 
articles of lower values, but is literally based on his doing without 
everything that constitutes a worker’s healthy and happy life. He has to 
go without regular meals of nutritious food, without furniture of any 
kind, without medicine, without books, or education, without sufficient 
clothing (the European worker in the hotter climate of South Africa does 
not go ill-clad), without soap, without cups and saucers, without 
umbrellas, without tram rides to and from his work, without any 
sanitary house, and so forth. 

The Administration and the government of India have produced this 
condition, and then on account of this very condition the government 
and the interested public have kept the worker a political outcast. Then 
on account of this political disability his condition has to continue to be 
the same. No government of India Act can therefore claim to be a 
reform unless it first reformed the heinous condition now 
euphemistically called cheap living. Death rates of 60 per 1000 and 
infantile mortality of 500 to 675 per 1000 tell their own tale. 

The following instances require careful sympathetic and also bold and 
unorthodox thinking, as pointing to the hopelessness of the attempt of 
reforming a people’s life-conditions without recognising the right and 
voice of the very sufferers themselves. 

(1) The government of India, and the non-popularly elected Councillors 
leave the widows of the Indian soldiers on pensions of 14 pence to 30 
pence a week. That same government and Councillors make a gift of 
£6,000,000 yearly to Great Britain to help her pay her widows at the 
rate of 25 shillings to 35 shillings weekly. Had the Indian soldier and his 
widow a vote, such a scandal would not have existed, and had their case 


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been lost in an adverse Council in India, their genuine representative 
would have appealed to the honour and self-respect of England and 
English widows not to touch this Indian money, and to spurn this gift of 
political motive before the Indian widow herself was paid at least 20 
shillings (£1) weekly. 

(2) The Indian Ryot (peasant) is deep in debt, and in the hands of 
extortionate money-lenders, who are not disconnected with the 
commercial fraternity. The government of India would for years, not 
open land banks to advance money to them at standard interest, on the 
grounds of the government being no money-lender, and also of the 
government of India being a poor hand-to-mouth concern. The same 
government (see The Mining World and Engineering Record, published 
Gresham House, London, issue of Saturday November 23rd 1918— P416 
& P421) now advance a loan of £200,000 at five industries to India with 
its freedom from Labour Troubles. One would welcome this migration 
of Industries if this freedom from Labour Troubles was based on an 
intelligent and spontaneous contentment of the worker, well-housed, 
fully-clad, sufficiently fed, well educated and well looked after 
medically. But when this migration depends entirely on the factor of the 
powerful and resourceful ones easily taking advantage over worse 
simpletons than what they find at home, the conditions become a set- 
back to India and to the Empire, and a government of India Bill that 
further favours and strengthens such conditions must in the end prove a 
serious set-back. 

(3) In free America, the farmer grows his cotton, and before parting 
with the product of his toil, secures to himself sufficient remuneration 
that would obtain him a well-appointed sanitary house, good rich food, 
ample furniture, ample clothing, medicine in illness, education for his 
children, and occasional luxuries of life, all with a consequent low death 
rate. 

The Indian farmer for his toil, obtains none of the above when parting 
with the product of his labour. Similarly the grower of wheat, oilseed; 
rubber, tea, coffee, coconuts, etc., etc. The government of India Bill does 
nothing whatever to reform this condition, but does actually greatly 
assist the class of Indian and English merchants who are today sitting in 


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concert, to devise plans to secure two million additional bales of cotton, 
from the Indian farmers’ labour with an absolute security of not having 
to pay him more than his present scandalously low remuneration. 

(4) The authors of the government of India Bill point to the various 
measures secured from time to time by the happy and privileged classes 
—Indian and European— in India, always building up further rights 
through the representation secured at each stage. Labour, having no 
representation at all to build upon, the following is the movement of 
wage progress in India from 1875. Please note wages are monthly, and 
one Rupee may be considered average equivalent of 18 pence. 

[The wages tables are not reproduced here]. 

The following was the reply to the above letter: 

From Committee Office, House of Lords, August 18th 1919 addressed to 
Shapurji Saklatvala Esq., Workers’ Welfare League of India etc., etc. 

Sir, 

Referring to your letter of the 22nd July, I have submitted your 
application to the Joint Committee upon the government of India Bill. 

I am directed to say that the Committee have already arranged for the 
attendance of a representative witness on behalf of Indian Labour. 

I am, Sir, 

Your obedient Servant, 

Edward Vigors 


122 



Appendix B to Chapter 7: ‘The Call 
of the Third International’ 


‘The Call of the Third International’ 

The document reproduced below is undated, but it was clearly written some 
time before the annual conference of the ILP held in Glasgow in the summer 
of 1920. 

Declaration of the Left Wing of the ILP. 

Comrades— 

We, the signatories to this letter, are of the opinion that we should not 
be doing our duty either to our fellow-members of the ILP or to the 
cause that we have at heart if, in this crisis in the history of the Socialist 
Movement in Britain, we did not come forward and, through such 
channels as are open to us, to state our case for the adherence of the 
Party to the Moscow International. 

We have neither the machinery of our own, nor freedom to use the 
machinery of the Party for the purpose of replying to those— pre- 
eminently the elected representatives of the membership— who oppose 
adhesion to the International Communist Movement. We do not 
complain that the National Administrative Council should give its 
advice to those to whom it is responsible and by whom it has been 
placed in charge of the administration, that the ILP should not affiliate 
with the Third International. 

We are jealous for the maintenance of that reputation which the ILP 
acquired during the war for its steadfast opposition to the predatory 
politics of capitalism and its unswerving determination to recognise no 
truce with the enemies of the working class. During the war the ILP had 
no use for the opportunist tactics of pro-war socialists of the type of 
Arthur Henderson, Albert Thomas, or Emile Vandervelde, any more 


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than it had for the shuffling tactics of which Karl Kautsky was a 
prominent exponent. 

Though not founded on a theoretical Marxism, yet as if by instinct, the 
ILP as a party held aloof from, and was hostile to those influences which 
have made of the Second International a dishonoured corpse that now 
pollutes the atmosphere of working-class politics. 

Though not founded on a theoretical Marxism, yet as if by 
accompanying Militarism ranged the ILP alongside of the Italian, 
Serbian and Romanian socialists, and those socialist sections then 
supporting Liebknecht in Germany and Lenin and Trotsky in the 
Russian Movement. 

Comrades, we have been and continue to be proud of our war record, 
and we fear the associations which we are now bidden to accept and to 
continue. 

It was not to line up with the militarist socialists, and erstwhile 
members of National Ministries that our men and women faced the 
misunderstanding of their audiences, broke the ties of friendship and 
old associations, and, in hundreds of instances, elected to remain in gaol 
for years rather than obey the behests of their class enemies and 
oppressors. 

Comrades, the ILP refused to take the ‘safe and discreet’ course during 
the war and scorned the dangers that lay in its path. After the struggles 
of the war years, are we to think rather of coming successes in elections 
and of the chances of office that may lie before us, or are we to continue 
to face the blast of unpopularity and the ridicule and contempt of those 
who cannot or will not strive to understand the true significance of 
Bolshevism? 

Our leaders— may we say once more those whom we have instructed to 
serve us— oppose the very thought of sudden revolution. They point us 
to the more practical course of gradual reform. They wish— in an evident 
ignorance of our own nation’s history— to achieve the ideal of the 
common ownership of the means of production and distribution (an end 
of most revolutionary and drastic character) by the mere use of so-called 
constitutional means, evolved for and by the advancement of capitalism, 
and by landlords and plutocrats who themselves did not always adhere 


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to them in the fundamental crises of British history. 

They speak, write and act as if the attainment of socialism was to be but 
an incident in the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of parliamentary controversy. 

They who have witnessed the shameless trickery of the last six years and 
of the secret diplomacy which preceded these years; who have put their 
pathetic trust in the broken reed of American democracy and in spite of 
the political experience of the past generation, besought a Liberal 
President of the United states, and an old-fashioned British aristocrat, 
who had formerly been a Tory War Minister and Foreign Secretary, to 
rescue the world from chaos; who have seen the League of Nations 
change from an idealist’s vision to a bondholder’s nightmare of blockade 
and intervention; who have before their eyes the pitiless murder of 
Central Europe by slow starvation of its helpless women and children; 
advise us to act and to organise as if the capitalists, when we knock upon 
the door, will be off and say no more. They advise us to think and act as 
if the propertied classes would acquiesce in their expropriation by 
parliamentary enactments. 

We do not doubt that the capitalists will tolerate the existence and obey 
the enactments of a Labour government as it leaves them secure in the 
possession of land and capital, but we have no use for such a 
government. Willing the end, we hold that the ILP must will the means. 
In this country the proletariat is an overwhelming majority. A bona fide 
Labour government may serve industrial organisations as well as the 
majority of the Public by what is known as the Dictatorship of the 
Proletariat. Such a government need make no apology for the use even 
of the Army in the interests of the working classes, just as under 
capitalist control, the whole of the armed forces of the nation have been, 
in the past and are still at the present time, used for the suppression of 
spasmodic working-class revolts. Scottish comrades, in particular, will 
remember the invasion of Glasgow by tanks and troops in the early part 
of 1910 and the elaborate preparations made for the possible crushing, 
by armed force, of the railway strike of 1919 will be fresh in the minds of 
all of us. Sir Edward Carson’s threatened military operations to keep 
under servile bondage the whole of Ireland, have silent lessons of their 
own. General Dyer’s rough and ready methods adopted during what is 


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popularly known as the ‘massacre of Amritsar’ to bring into terror- 
stricken subjugation 300 millions of Indians for the benefit of a few 
thousand Imperial capitalist exploiters, is not a bad example of the 
Dictatorship of the imperialist. 

The Moscow International not only does not reject but it emphatically 
endorses participation in parliamentary elections and entry into 
Parliament, for the purpose of propaganda by exposure and of depriving 
the capitalists of whatever obstructionist power there may be in the 
domination of that institution. Lenin, in his reply to Kautsky’s 
‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ explicitly states his views: 

“Or take bourgeois parliaments. Is it to be supposed that learned Mr 
Kautsky has never heard of the fact that the more democracy is 
developed the more do the bourgeois parliaments fall under the control 
of the Stock Exchange and Bankers? This, of course, does not mean that 
bourgeois parliamentarism ought not to be made use of; the Bolsheviks, 
for instance, made, perhaps, more successful use of it than any party in 
the world, having in 1912-14 captured the entire Labour representation 
in the fourth Duma.” 

Or let us take yet another definite example: Madam Clara Zetkin, the 
leading exponent of communism in Germany, and one of the founders 
of the Spartacus Group, is an active participant in the Parliament of 
Wurttemburg. 

Whilst we are in favour of exploiting to the uttermost all the 
opportunities of constitutional procedure, we believe the working class 
will have no more use for Parliament under socialism than the 
revolutionary plutocracy had for the supreme organ of feudalism, the 
Privy Council. We believe that the whole structure of the state must be 
dismantled and a new social organisation evolved, through which all 
who render or have rendered useful social service may participate in the 
administration of communal life. We definitely reject the principle of 
occupancy of landed property— the basis of the present franchise— and 
to require the establishment of a labour right to participate in the 
administration of society. 

We think that the Shop Stewards’ and Workers’ Committees set up on a 
basis of organisation of industry, including bodies catering for 


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professional and home workers, constitute the beginning of the new 
policy and we urge that it shall be the aim of the International Labour 
Party, by all means in its power, to further the development of labour 
unions on the above lines. 

Such, Comrades, are the general principles and policy which we trust 
will command your support and, in any case, enlist your sympathetic 
consideration. 

We are fully aware that, in adopting the only means at our disposal for 
bringing our views before our fellow-members of the ILP we shall, in all 
probability, be subjected to the kind of criticism which is usually 
levelled at those who introduce disturbing elements into the realms of 
official somnolence and complacency. This prospect does not in the 
least perturb us. We do, however, ask those who, after full 
consideration, find themselves in agreement with us, to strengthen our 
hands by sending a brief note to such effect, addressed to Comrade Mrs 
H. Furguson, 4 Addison Way, Golders Green, London. 

Even more important, however, than indicating your individual views in 
this way, is to get your Branch to make your voice and influence 
effective in the ranks of the Party by well-directed action at the 
forthcoming Annual Conference at Glasgow. This can be done by voting 
steadily and solidly for the resolution which declares for disaffiliation 
from the Second International and adhesion to the Third International. 
This is the issue. Do not allow it to be side-tracked. Vote consistently 
against shelving motions in whatever guise they may be presented. 

Even a decision in favour of affiliation with the Third International may 
be largely nullified if the carrying out of it is entrusted to a National 
Council either hike warm or even actively hostile to Moscow. However 
essential it is that such a resolution passed by Conference and the 
personnel of the National Council should be in harmony and not in 
hopeless antagonism, we have to bear in mind that the elections at the 
Conference take place on previously fixed nominations, and also that 
they are based on consideration of more than one question relating to 
the Party. In view of this, it would be necessary to work continually 
through your Branches to urge upon the NAC to carry out in spirit the 
wishes of the Branches in regard to our hearty co-operation with the 


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Third International. 

We are yours fraternally, 

[There follow 159 names as signatories including that of Shapurji 
Saklatvala]. 


128 



Appendix C to Chapter 7: The Terms 
of Comintern Membership 


The Second Congress of the Communist International resolves that the 
following are the terms of Comintern membership: 

1. Day-by-day propaganda and agitation must be genuinely communist 
in character. All press organs belonging to the parties must be edited by 
reliable Communists who have given proof of their devotion to the cause 
of the proletarian revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat should 
not be discussed merely as a stock phrase to be learned by rote; it 
should be popularised in such a way that the practical facts 
systematically dealt with in our press day by day will drive home to 
every rank-and-file working man and working woman, every soldier and 
peasant, that it is indispensable to them. Third International supporters 
should use all media to which they have access— the press, public 
meetings, trade unions, and co-operative societies— to expose 
systematically and relentlessly, not only the bourgeoisie but also its 
accomplices— the reformists of every shade. 

2. Any organisation that wishes to join the Communist International 
must consistently and systematically dismiss reformists and “Centrists” 
from positions of any responsibility in the working-class movement 
(party organisations, editorial boards, trade unions, parliamentary 
groups, co-operative societies, municipal councils, etc.), replacing them 
by reliable Communists. The fact that in some cases rank-and-file 
workers may at first have to replace “experienced” leaders should be no 
deterrent. 

3. In countries where a state of siege or emergency legislation makes it 
impossible for Communists to conduct their activities legally, it is 
absolutely essential that legal and illegal work should be combined. In 


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almost all the countries of Europe and America, the class struggle is 
entering the phase of civil war. In these conditions, Communists can 
place no trust in bourgeois legality. They must everywhere build up a 
parallel illegal organisation, which, at the decisive moment, will be in a 
position to help the Party fulfil its duty to the revolution. 

4. Persistent and systematic propaganda and agitation must be 
conducted in the armed forces, and Communist cells formed in every 
military unit. In the main Communists will have to do this work 
illegally; failure to engage in it would be tantamount to a betrayal of 
their revolutionary duty and incompatible with membership in the 
Third International. 

5. Regular and systematic agitation is indispensable in the countryside. 
The working class cannot consolidate its victory without support from at 
least a section of the farm labourers and poor peasants, and without 
neutralising, through its policy, part of the rest of the rural population. 
In the present period communist activity in the countryside is of 
primary importance. It should be conducted, in the main, through 
revolutionary worker-Communists who have contacts with the rural 
areas. To forgo this work or entrust it to unreliable semi-reformist 
elements is tantamount to renouncing the proletarian revolution. 

6. It is the duty of any party wishing to belong to the Third International 
to expose, not only avowed social-patriotism, but also the falsehood and 
hypocrisy of social-pacifism. It must systematically demonstrate to the 
workers that, without the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, no 
international arbitration courts, no talk about a reduction of 
armaments, no “democratic” reorganisation of the League of Nations 
will save mankind from new imperialist wars. 

7. It is the duty of parties wishing to belong to the Communist 
International to recognise the need for a complete and absolute break 
with reformism and “Centrist” policy, and to conduct propaganda 
among the party membership for that break. Without this, a consistent 
communist policy is impossible. 

The Communist International demands imperatively and 
uncompromisingly that this break be effected at the earliest possible 
date. It cannot tolerate a situation in which avowed reformists, such as 


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Turati, Modigliani and others, are entitled to consider themselves 
members of the Third International. Such a state of affairs would lead to 
the Third International strongly resembling the defunct Second 
International. 

8. Parties in countries whose bourgeoisie possess colonies and oppress 
other nations must pursue a most well-defined and clear-cut policy in 
respect of colonies and oppressed nations. Any party wishing to join the 
Third International must ruthlessly expose the colonial machinations of 
the imperialists of its “own” country, must support— in deed, not merely 
in word— every colonial liberation movement, demand the expulsion of 
its compatriot imperialists from the colonies, inculcate in the hearts of 
the workers of its own country an attitude of true brotherhood with the 
working population of the colonies and the oppressed nations, and 
conduct systematic agitation among the armed forces against all 
oppression of the colonial peoples. 

9. It is the duty of any party wishing to join the Communist 
International to conduct systematic and unflagging communist work in 
the trade unions, co-operative societies and other mass workers’ 
organisations. Communist cells should be formed in the trade unions, 
and, by their sustained and unflagging work, win the unions over to the 
communist cause. In every phase of their day-by-day activity these cells 
must unmask the treachery of the social-patriots and the vacillation of 
the “Centrists.” The cells must be completely subordinate to the party as 
a whole. 

10. It is the duty of any party belonging to the Communist International 
to wage a determined struggle against the Amsterdam “International” of 
yellow trade unions. Its indefatigable propaganda should show the 
organised workers the need to break with the yellow Amsterdam 
International. It must give every support to the emerging international 
federation of Red trade unions which are associated with the 
Communist International. 

11. It is the duty of parties wishing to join the Third International to re- 
examine the composition of their parliamentary groups, eliminate 
unreliable elements and effectively subordinate these groups to the 
Party Central Committees. They must demand that every Communist 


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proletarian should subordinate all his activities to the interests of truly 
revolutionary propaganda and agitation. 

12. The periodical and non-periodical press, and all publishing 
enterprises, must likewise be fully subordinate to the Party Central 
Committee, whether the party as a whole is legal or illegal at the time. 
Publishing enterprises should not be allowed to abuse their autonomy 
and pursue any policies that are not in full accord with that of the Party. 

13. Parties belonging to the Communist International must be organised 
on the principle of democratic centralism. In this period of acute civil 
war, the Communist parties can perform their duty only if they are 
organised in a most centralised manner, are marked by an iron 
discipline bordering on military discipline, and have strong and 
authoritative party centres invested with wide powers and enjoying the 
unanimous confidence of the membership. 

14. Communist parties in countries where Communists can conduct 
their work legally must carry out periodic membership purges (re- 
registrations) with the aim of systematically ridding the party of petty- 
bourgeois elements that inevitably percolate into them. 

15. It is the duty of any party wishing to join the Communist 
International selflessly to help any Soviet republic in its struggle against 
counter-revolutionary forces. Communist parties must conduct 
incessant propaganda urging the workers to refuse to transport war 
materials destined for the enemies of the Soviet republics; they must 
conduct legal or illegal propaganda in the armed forces dispatched to 
strangle the workers’ republics, etc. 

16. It is the duty of parties which have still kept their old Social- 
Democratic programmes to revise them as speedily as possible and draw 
up new communist programmes in conformity with the specific 
conditions in their respective countries, and in the spirit of (Communist 
International decisions. As a rule, the programmes of all parties 
belonging to the Communist International must be approved by a 
regular Congress of the Communist International or by its Executive 
Committee. In the event of the Executive Committee withholding 
approval, the party is entitled to appeal to the Congress of the 
Communist International. 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


17. All decisions of the Communist International ’s congresses and of its 
Executive Committee are binding on all affiliated parties. Operating in 
conditions of acute civil war, the Communist International must be far 
more centralised than the Second International was. It stands to reason, 
however, that in every aspect of their work the Communist International 
and its Executive Committee must take into account the diversity of 
conditions in which the respective parties have to fight and work, and 
adopt decisions binding on all parties only on matters in which such 
decisions are possible. 

18. In view of the foregoing, parties wishing to join the Communist 
International must change their name. Any party seeking affiliation 
must call itself the Communist Party of the country in question (Section 
of the Third, Communist International). The question of a party’s name 
is not merely a formality, but a matter of major political importance. 
The Communist International has declared a resolute war on the 
bourgeois world and all yellow Social-Democratic parties. The 
difference between the Communist parties and the old and official 
“Social-Democratic”, or “socialist”, parties, which have betrayed the 
banner of the working class, must be made absolutely clear to every 
rank-and-file worker. 

19. After the conclusion of the proceedings of the Second World 
Congress of the Communist International, any party wishing to join the 
Communist International must at the earliest date convene an 
extraordinary congress for official acceptance of the above obligations 
on behalf of the entire party. 

19. All Parties belonging to the Communist International and those 
which have applied for admission are obliged to convene an 
extraordinary congress as soon as possible and in any case not later than 
four months after the Second Congress of the Communist International 
to examine all these conditions of admission. In this connection all 
Party centres must see that the decisions of the Second Congress of the 
Communist International are made known to all local organisations. 

20. Those Parties which now wish to join the Communist International, 
but which have not radically changed their former tactics, must see to it 
that before entering the Communist International not less than two- 


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thirds of the members of their Central Committee and of all their 
leading central bodies consist of comrades who publicly and 
unambiguously advocated the entry of their Party into the Communist 
International before its Second Congress. Exceptions can be made with 
the consent of the Executive Committee of the Communist 
International. The Executive also has the right to make exceptions in the 
case of representatives of the centrist tendency mentioned in paragraph 
7 - 

21. Those members of the party who object in principle to the conditions 
and Theses put forward by the Communist International are to be 
expelled from the Party. The same applies in particular to the delegates 
to the extraordinary congress. 


134 



CHAPTER 8 


A Communist in Parliament 

Selection as a parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party 
despite membership of the Communist Party. Election to 
parliament, 1922. The growing gulf between the Labour and 
Communist Parties. First speech in the House of Commons. 


When the Executive Committee of the Labour Party met in the House of 
Commons on 18th October 1921, they had before them a list of fourteen 
prospective parliamentary candidates submitted by local Labour Parties for 
endorsement. It was “Resolved: That the candidatures be endorsed with the 
exception of Mr S. Saklatvala, and that this be deferred for an interview with 
the Secretary and the National Agent.” Subsequently the National Agent’s 
Report included the following: 

“Battersea North 

“The Secretary and the National Agent reported upon an interview they 
had had with the representatives of the Battersea Labour Party and Mr 
S. Saklatvala, who had been selected as the Candidate for the 
Constituency. 

“Considerable discussion ensued as to Mr Saklatvala’s association with 
the Communist Party, his attack upon the policy of the Independent 
Labour Party in continuing its association with the Labour Party, and 
his attempt to form a secessionist ILP Group favourable to affiliation 
with the Third International. 

“It was reported that Mr Saklatvala, in accepting the candidature for 
Battersea North, has indicated his acceptance of the Labour Party 
Constitution, with its usual implications. 

“Resolved: That the candidature of Mr S. Saklatvala for Battersea North 
be sanctioned on condition that he accepts the Constitution of the Party, 
agrees to receive the Labour Whips if returned to Parliament, and to 
abide by the decisions of the parliamentary Party.” 

It is somewhat surprising that the Executive Committee of the Labour Party 


135 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


should have endorsed Saklatvala’s candidature in view of his self proclaimed 
and publicly acclaimed adherence to the Third International and his close 
links with the Communist Party of Great Britain. It is true that his selection by 
the Battersea Trades Council and the local Labour Party (who, at that time and 
until 1926, were working in unison), had been numerically overwhelming and 
enthusiastic, and that by this time there was no doubt as to his popularity in 
the working class movement and socialist circles in general. Nonetheless, their 
acceptance of him was surprising; especially as, so far as I can ascertain, he 
was the only openly avowed member of the Communist Party to be adopted as 
a Labour candidate at that time. This is confirmed by the extract from the 
Report of the Executive Committee of the Labour Party at the annual 
conference held in Edinburgh in June 1922, included as Appendix A to this 
chapter. 

So in this, as in so much else, Father became a ‘special’ or ‘isolated’ case; there 
he was, representing the Labour Party while being an openly, self-advertised 
member of the Communist Party; he was working for and with the working 
class (and enjoyed their affection and esteem) while certainly not being born 
into that class himself; he was working among United Kingdom political 
activists whereas he himself was Indian and did not come to the UK until he 
was thirty-one; and he fought vigorously and endlessly for India to be set free 
from strangling imperialism, while not following the popular Congress Party 
in India and the Gandhian theory of non-violence and the symbolic hand- 
spinning routine advocated by Gandhi. He seems never to have floated on the 
tide but was always swimming against the prevailing currents. Strange then 
that he should have been able to embrace communism almost without 
question. (He once said to a friend that he did not allow the least criticism of 
what went on in Soviet Russia, as that would be for him like a sin against the 
Holy Ghost!) 

In order to understand why the Labour Party went to such pains in 
considering the candidacy of Saklatvala and other members of the Communist 
Party, it is necessary to understand the complicated and confusing 
relationship between the Labour and Communist parties. 

In March 1917 the revolution in Russia was greeted with optimistic rhetoric by 
David Lloyd George, who set down the following Resolution in the House of 
Commons: “That this House sends to the Duma its fraternal greetings and 


136 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


tenders to the Russian people its heartiest congratulations upon the 
establishment among them of free institutions in full confidence that they will 
lead not only to the rapid and happy progress of the Russian nation but to the 
prosecution with renewed steadfastness and vigour of the war against the 
stronghold of an autocratic militarism which threatens the liberty of Europe.” 
The Observer proclaimed: 

“The triumph won by the Duma and the Army together for freedom and 
modern government is one of the greatest and best things of time. The 
breath of a new morning is felt not only by Russia but by all mankind.” 
The Nation (a left-wing, Liberal organ edited by a one-time Fabian, 
H.W. Massingham) wrote; “The greatest tyranny in the world has fallen. 
The glorious news of the Russian revolution will send a thrill of joy 
through democratic Europe. Liberalism has won its first great victory on 
the moral battleground where all along the true conflict was going on. 
Association with the Tzar was a curse and an incubus. Alliance with the 
Russian people is a glory.” (These were strong words when one 
considers that the Tzar was a cousin of our own King). 

The Manchester Guardian was equally enthusiastic; it wrote: 

“Revolution has before now proved a great mother of efficiency, and 
there is no finer dynamic force than a passion for freedom. England 
hails the new Russia with a higher hope and a surer confidence in the 
future not only of this war but of the world.” 

However, subsequent events in Russia dampened this first flush of euphoria, 
and admiration gave way to fear that the introduction of socialism and 
communism might be threatening to spread from Russia to Germany and 
other countries in Europe, press and politicians alike became more wary, if not 
actually apprehensive. 

From its inception in 1920 the Communist Party of Great Britain had sought 
affiliation to the Labour Party. Their repeated applications were constantly 
rejected with a growing firmness, clarity and resolution. 

In order to understand the gulf between the two parties, it is helpful to study 
the ‘Explanatory Notes on the Second International versus the Third 
International, the Soviets, and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ (published 
in England and, alas, undated, although the Third International was 
established at a conference of 33 delegates from 29 countries meeting in 


137 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Moscow on the 29th March 1919; it is reasonable to assume, therefore, that 
this document was produced shortly after that date). This document is 
included as Appendix B to this chapter. I have quoted it at length (I trust not 
at tedious length!) because, together with the ‘Manifesto of the Moscow 
International,’ it forms the basis of the Communist creed which Saklatvala 
whole-heartedly embraced and was to follow for the rest of his life. 

In a list of ‘Tentative Proposals Providing for Transformation into the 
Communist Party’, the twelfth proposal is that “the Provisional Executive to 
make immediate application for affiliation to the Third International as the 
Communist Party of Great Britain.” It was this affiliated party that Saklatvala 
ultimately joined in the spring of 1921. 

Doubtless it was a great relief and excitement to have his candidature 
endorsed but he had to wait until November 15th 1922 for the General 
Election. The Coalition government, under the Premiership of Lloyd George, 
was to continue for a few months longer, but there were troubles brewing for 
them: unemployment was increasing, housing for the poor was inadequate 
and the ‘land fit for heroes to live in’ was falling far short of expectations. It is 
not easy to maintain the demeanour of a hero when you are underfed, poorly 
clad, are without a home and, perhaps hardest of all, without hope of getting 
work, discarded by the community for whom you had so lately fought during 
the war. 

Meanwhile, Saklatvala continued to address meetings up and down the 
country, by now spreading the gospel of communism instead of that of the 
Independent Labour Party, as hitherto. In one of the letters addressed to my 
brother in 1937, an ILP organiser described a typical weekend of Father’s, 
recalling that he would address a conference of workers in the iron and steel 
industry, speaking for anything up to two hours, in Middlesborough on the 
Saturday, then on the Sunday he would address meetings in different villages 
in the morning and in the afternoon; he was more at home, he said, when he 
was speaking in a ring of people rather than from the wagon and he would 
often talk to them in the open air for a couple of hours. He stayed in the home 
of the writer of the letter, who says that on the Sunday evening he would talk 
to him and his family, describing the terrible conditions of the workers in 
India; then, in the small hours of Monday morning he would leave for the 
station to catch a train to London in time to go to his office that morning. (I 


138 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


still recollect sharing some of those weekend jaunts with him when I was 
roused at what seemed to be the middle of the night to make the long train 
journey home. 

All of us children had curly hair which solicited admiration from strangers; 
Father dreaded that we should become vain or conscious of our appearance, so 
dressing me even in the small hours of the morning he tugged and tortured my 
hair, scraping it into a tight pony-tail to make it unbecoming! A most painful 
and tear-jerking process which I remember vividly). It was a gruelling 
schedule and one he maintained week after week in different parts of the 
country, virtually throughout his life. Arthur Field, his fellow worker in the 
Workers’ Welfare League of India, writing in 1937 of this period, says: “From 
1922 Sak became an even more active and unsparing propagandist, now died 
deepest red, and publicly represented as ten shades deeper than that...” 
Herbert Bryan, writing of this period, says that the Communist Party got an 
active lecturer and propagandist because Sak became even more lavish of 
effort in that Party than in the ILP. 

The few weeks immediately preceding and leading up to the General Election 
were politically tempestuous. The Allies, after the War, had redesigned states 
and frontiers and this division of the spoils of war led to international 
tensions. In late 1922 the situation in the Near East reached crisis point and 
some of the newspapers of the day, when the crisis was, up to a point, 
resolved, said we had been on the brink of another war. Added to the 
international turmoil, unemployment at home had reached 1,300,000 (little 
more than one third of the figure reached in the 70s and 80s by the Thatcher 
Tories, but considered unacceptable in 1922). 

David Lloyd George was losing the adulation he had previously enjoyed. It was 
said that the coalition remained in little more than name and that the heart of 
the Unionists was no longer in it. Austen Chamberlain made a dramatic dash 
to Paris and hammered out an agreement with Poincarre; he had difficulty in 
persuading the Cabinet to accept the terms, but in the end they did and the 
immediacy was taken out of the Near Eastern perils. 

Andrew Bonar Law, whose popularity within the Unionist Party was 
increasing faster than Lloyd George’s was waning, had written an important 
letter to the Times, which was said to be ‘of such a character that might well 
oblige him to assume a position of political leadership.’ 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


At last, at 4.15 on 19th October 1922, Lloyd George resigned. King George 
asked Bonar Law to form a government; after he had been elected as Leader of 
the Unionist Party, he agreed and a new Cabinet was formed. 

Parliament was dissolved by proclamation on 26th October 1922 and the date 
of the General Election was fixed for 15th November. Father’s election leaflet 
lists the committee rooms and details of meetings to be held in the ward and 
shows a portrait of him with a typical good-natured hint of a smile, looking 
surprisingly benevolent and tranquil and serene for a reputed revolutionary! 
On the opposite page, under the headline ‘Labour’s United Front’ the 
following claims were made: “The only Party in Great Britain that is solid, and 
stands solidly by the Workers, nationally and internationally. North 
Battersea’s Candidate has support of all sections.” And under that the 
following legends appeared: 

“Mr Saklatvala has for years worked hard in the peoples’ cause, and is 
intensely in earnest in the service he has undertaken. In Parliament he 
would not only be an able and devoted servant of the workers of this 
country, but his special knowledge of the economic conditions of 
millions of our fellow subjects in India would compel attention to the 
neglected conditions of workers in that part of the Empire. J.R. Clynes, 
Chairman parliamentary Labour Party. 

“Dear Comrade Saklatvala, The Executive Committee of the London 
Trades Council endorse your candidature for North Battersea, and hope 
that the Trade Unionists in North Battersea will work and vote for your 
return to Parliament on November 15th. Your election by Battersea 
workers to the House of Commons would be a message of hope and 
encouragement to the awakening masses of our fellow workers in the 
East. D. Carmichael, Secretary, London Trades Council. 

“I appeal to you— to Labour, which I have always honoured, to women— 
women workers and mothers, who are the greatest workers of all, I 
appeal to my Irish fellow-countrymen and women in North Battersea— 
support the Party and support the man, Saklatvala, that will be on your 
side in the great struggle which is bound to come. Saklatvala spoke for 
us, as a fraternal delegate, in the last Irish Labour Congress, and his 
courage, wisdom and determination impressed us all. C. Despard, 
Battersea’s late Candidate. 


140 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“Dear Saklatvala, The forces of reaction are making a strong bid for 
supremacy, and only the return of the boldest defenders of the working- 
class can prevent this. Your activities in the movement in the past 
should more than justify that faith in you, which will secure your return 
to Westminster. I see the workers in Battersea are rallying solidly to 
your support, and I hope you are victoriously elected as their member of 
Parliament. Arthur Mcmanus, Communist Party. 

“Dear Mr Saklatvala, Permit me to wish you every success in your great 
fight on behalf of the workers. The great and supreme need of the time 
is a ‘Real Peace’, and I earnestly appeal to the Christian men and women 
of your constituency to give you their wholehearted support, and I use 
the word Christian in no narrow theological sense. Rev Herbert 
Dunnico, International Christian Peace Fellowship. 

“Dear Saklatvala, Battersea must be won for Labour. I wish you all the 
success in the world in your fight. Clifford Allen, Treasurer ILP. 

“Dear Saklatvala, I wish our other Indian friends had your foresight to 
see the unity of interest between Labour in India and Labour in Britain. 
I wish you every success in your candidature in North Battersea. K, S. 
Bhat, Chairman, Workers’ Welfare League of India. 

“I urge the workers and the unemployed of Battersea to declare war 
against Poverty and Starvation in the midst of plenty by supporting 
Saklatvala. Wal Hannington, National Organiser, National Unemployed 
Workers’ Committee Movement. 

“Resolution passed at the First All India Trade Union Congress, held in 
Bombay on October 31st, November 1st and 2nd 1920: ‘That this 
Congress places on record its grateful acknowledgement of the work 
done by the Indian Workers’ Welfare League of London, and by Mr Sh. 
Saklatvala on behalf of the Workers of India...’ 

“The Second Indian Congress passed this further Resolution: ‘That this 
Congress requests the Workers’ Welfare League of India to ascertain 
how the state of unemployment of British workers can be speedily 
remedied by prompt co-operation between workers in India and those 
of Great Britain and Ireland.’” 

A friend of mine always used the expression, ‘He lies like an epitaph,’ to 
describe a liar and I have no doubt that there are those who may feel that 


141 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


election addresses run epitaphs a close second in the area of lying flattery. But, 
on the whole, the claims made on Father’s behalf seem to have been pretty 
accurate and truthful. (Appendix C to this chapter contains more of 
Saklatvala’s election material). 

There were three contestants for the North Battersea seat, H.C. Hogbin, who 
was standing as a National Liberal, V.C. Albu, Independent Labour, and 
Father, standing as the official Labour Party candidate. On November 8th, The 
Daily Chronicle wrote that: “Battersea, always a storm centre of politics, will 
be watched during the next seven days with close interest in constituencies far 
removed from its own borders.” The paper described Mr Hogbin as a National 
Liberal, supported by the Conservative organisation ‘North Battersea 
Constitutional Association’. The Chronicle went on to say: 

“Mr Saklatvala is a Communist, a supporter of the Third International 
and a sympathiser with the Russian revolution. To do him justice, he 
makes no secret of these leanings, but rather glories in them. Mr 
Saklatvala, one would think, will prove too strong even for the Labour 
element in Battersea.” 

But this prognosis published by the Chronicle proved wrong, and, on 15th 
November 1922, the following results were proclaimed from the balcony of the 
Town Hall to the excited crowds seething in the street below, despite the raw 
cold of a mid-November night: 

Mr Saklatvala: 11,311 
Mr Hogbin: 9,290 
Mr Albu: 1,756 



142 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Clipping: The Times, 16th November 1922 
There was jubilation and jollification amid the throngs of people in the streets 
of Battersea that night. Apart from the faith in the politics that Father stood 
for, there was also no doubt a great personal affection for him as a man and 
great warmth of feeling for him. 

In the light of present attitudes, it is good to recall that the fact that Father was 
an Indian did nothing to diminish the real love that thousands of Londoners 
felt for him personally. He never stressed his nationality nor did he hide it. For 
the most part, he ignored it, behaving, as he wished all people to behave, as a 
human being, a creature of the universe, without constant reference to the 
place where he happened o have been born. And he was accepted, respected 
and loved for his personal attributes. 

An article in Number 19 of ‘The Communist’ stressed the international 
character of Saklatvala thus: 

“Comrade Saklatvala, not only combines in his person tha aspirations of 
Labour and communism, but by virtue of his kinship, the hopes of the 
toiling millions of India; Saklatvala personifies the internationalism of 
the great proletarian battle for emancipation.” 

Indeed, it could have been embarrassing if, after all the brouhaha surrounding 
the endorsement of his candidature he had failed to win the seat for Labour. 
But he proved, after all, to be a good choice for the Labour Party. And five days 
later, on 20th November 1922, he was sworn in and took his seat as a member 
of the 32nd Parliament of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The General 
Election had proved a triumph for Labour, which now had 142 seats in the 
House, virtually doubling their representation in the new Parliament. They 
were a jubilant and confident opposition during those climatically and 
politically gray days of November. (Poor Arthur Henderson, who was 
instrumental in rejecting many prospective candidates who were members of 
the Communist Party, himself became a victim of the electorate and lost his 
seat). 


JUf. Hf.ipurji SnkJotv. b. tht : inline rHamod 
M U.bour mtmbM lot- North Butler**, la the 
Uind Indian ulto has cntenMl the of 

Commons. HI* predecessor* tier* tb® late Mr 
^ Naorojl, ulto woo CVoUvJ Finsbury 
fai the Gtadstoniiio interest At the 1893 0 lection 
by* bar* majority of three, and SItM.M.BIiow- 
nsgjrrv**. wl»o woo Xocth-Ksst Bethnal Greta 
lor the Cowry aiivp*. The only Indian who 
bss sat in tl* House ot Lords is Lord SatUia. 


143 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Clipping: The Times, 18th November 1922 
It may be of passing interest to quote here a letter from a journalist, Mrs 
Margarita Barns, written to Beram in 1937: 

“My first meeting with your father was during the 1922 General Election 
when he came over from his own constituency to assist Bertrand Russell 
in Chelsea. I am mentioning this because the latter may have some 
interesting light to throw; a greater contrast than these two speakers can 
hardly be imagined— Bertrand Russell, quiet and conversational; 
Shapurji Saklatvala, dynamic, rousing the meeting to an intense pitch of 
excitement. Your mother was generally present at these meetings and 
she will recollect them.” 

It is disappointing that there is no indication that Beram acted on her 
suggestion of getting in touch with Bertrand Russell, so his opinion of Father, 
alas, goes unrecorded. But it is also clear from Mrs Barns’s letter that Mother 
accompanied him on his electioneering campaign. 

In The Communist of 25th November, Saklatvala wrote: 

“If ever an election fight was a series of pitched battles it was at North 
Battersea. Yet they were all bloodless battles full of good cheer, and 
though a serious fight, it was at the same time a sing-song fight all the 
way. The great plank in the opponent’s fight was to be the Labour 
Candidate’s membership of the Communist Party. 

“But this plank never even once balanced itself on 2 firm ends. More 
loudly, more emphatically, and more repeatedly did the candidate 
himself declare and fully explain his Communism than the adversaries 
had the ability to do. What assisted the Labour candidate most was the 
very genuineness of his Communist principles; as, in a truly proletarian 
spirit, he got by his side members of all sections of the Labour 
movement in Battersea to stand solid as a rock. 

“The comrades of the ILP, comrades of Battersea Labour League, 
comrades of Trades Unions and Labour Party wards and the Irish 
without one woman or one man in the active Labour ranks making an 
exception. All of them laughed at the scare-cry against their candidate 
being a Communist and all of them seemed to trust him and work more 
enthusiastically for him on account of the candidate’s openness in 


144 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


adhering to his political principles. 

“It was a substantial proof that genuine Communist candidates are 
bound to enthuse the Labour and working-class voters and electors in a 
higher degree than by any policy of timidity or half-heartedness.” 

The 1922 Conservative government had as Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law; 
Stanley Baldwin was Chancellor of the Exchequer, W.C. Bridgeman was 
Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs were in the aristocratic 
hands of Viscount Curzon, who was also Leader of the House of Lords. The 
Secretary of State for India was Viscount Peel, but the man who was to loom 
large in Saklatvala’s Indian interests was the Under-Secretary of State for 
India, Viscount Winterton, and there were to be many exchanges between 
them. 

[Editor’s note: The 1922 General Election was the first in which votes for, and 
seats won by, the Labour Party exceeded those for both Liberal parties] 

There was also one Communist member, J. Walton Newbold. 

On November 25th, the official newspaper of the Communist Party wrote the 
following, under the heading ‘The Communist MPs:’ 

“In the name of the whole Party, the Executive Committee greets the 
new Communist faction in Parliament, Comrades Newbold and 
Saklatvala. They have a lonely fight to fight at present, but even one 
good fighter can be enough to expose the workings of the system and to 
show up the intrigues of the government...” 

Clearly, the party was treating Father as another communist member and was 
ignoring the fact that he had been elected as a Labour candidate. 


145 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Photo: Shapurji Saklatvala and J. Walter Newbold 


146 





Appendix A to Chapter 8: Report to 
the Labour Party Conference, 1922 


Report of the Executive Committee of the Labour Party, Edinburgh, June 1922 
...On January 15th Comrade Gallacher, of the Communist Party, 
addressed a meeting in Edinburgh. At that meeting, speaking in regard 
to the affiliation of the Communist Party to the Labour Party, he made 
the statement that Mr Saklatvala, a member of the Communist Party, 
had been endorsed as candidate for Battersea, and in reply to a question 
Comrade Gallacher said that he had been endorsed on the same terms 
as any other candidate but subject to the mandate of the Communist 
Party. 

The local Secretary thought that was rather strange, and in view of the 
fact that they were likely to have a Communist member put forward as a 
nominee, it was determined to write to Mr Henderson setting forth the 
details and telling him that they were likely to be confronted in Leith 
with having a member of the Communist Party nominated. (Mr 
McQuater here read the letter which had been written to Mr Henderson 
and Mr Henderson’s reply). 

Continuing, he said that on receipt of the communication they went to a 
conference feeling sure that everything was perfectly in order. Then they 
had the bombshell thrown at them that, despite the fact that they had a 
statement in writing from Mr Arthur Henderson that a member of the 
Communist Party could be a Labour Party candidate, when they 
received the nomination of Mr Foulis, they were informed that Comrade 
Foulis could not be accepted. Mr Ben Shaw (the Scottish Secretary), 
speaking on behalf of Mr Wake (the National Agent of the Party) said 
that the nomination of Mr Foulis was not in order. 

They in Leith pointed out that Mr Henderson was the National 


147 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Secretary and that they had it on his authority that a Communist could 
be a Labour Party candidate provided he was prepared to accept the 
Constitution and the principles of the Labour Party. They then wrote to 
Mr Henderson and pointed out that Mr Foulis, a member of the 
Communist Party, had been nominated. Mr Henderson, however, did 
not reply to this letter, but turned it over to Mr Wake, and Mr Wake said 
that Mr Foulis could not be accepted because he was a member of the 
Communist Party. 

They then wrote back again to Mr Henderson and pointed out the 
position which they themselves had created in Battersea, and said that if 
it had been done in Battersea it could surely be done in Leith. They were 
told, however, that Battersea must not be taken as a precedent. They 
thought that that was rather curious, because if Mr Saklatvala had been 
an unknown person, who had slipped through without it being noticed, 
they would have thought probably the Executive had made a mistake 
and that they did not know he was a member of the Communist Party 
when they endorsed his candidature. 

It had taken six months to get through this business. It was evident that 
the only thing against Mr Foulis was his membership of the Communist 
Party and for that reason alone he was turned down by the Scottish 
Executive, and the National Executive hid behind the decision of the 
Scottish Executive. He wished to know from Mr Henderson what was 
asked of Mr Saklatvala. To this day, neither Mr Henderson nor Mr Wake 
had answered that question. They had to go to the Battersea Labour 
Party for the information, and they were told there that nothing had 
been asked from them except what was stated in Mr Henderson’s first 
letter. He wanted to draw attention to the treatment meted out to them 
in Leith as against the treatment meted out to the Labour Party in 
Battersea. 

Rt. Hon. Arthur Henderson, MP, in reply said that Mr McQuater had 
just told them that it had taken six months to reach a certain stage in the 
negotiations with regard to this candidature. He could assure the 
Conference it had been a fairly long six months so far as they at Head 
Office were concerned. There was a long and difficult history connected 
with this business. They had done their best to satisfy the friend who 


148 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


had just spoken and those acting with him, but they found it absolutely 
impossible. After all, they had got to keep in mind that in Scotland the 
question of candidatures went, in the first instance, to the Scottish 
Council. 

This question came up at the Scottish Council and the Scottish Council 
refused to endorse the candidature. The matter was then referred to the 
Head Office, and a good deal of correspondence had taken place. In the 
latter stages of the correspondence the Leith friends fastened very 
severely on to the endorsement the Executive had given to Comrade 
Saklatvala as a candidate for one of the Battersea constituencies. Their 
friend seemed to think that Mr Saklatvala was endorsed because he 
occupied some prominent position in connection with the Communist 
movement. He could assure them he was entirely mistaken, and he was 
going to give them the reasons why Saklatvala was endorsed. 

Mr Henderson then read a communication of December 12th 1921, to 
Mr Coltman, the Secretary of the Battersea Party, setting out the terms 
on which the Executive had agreed to endorse the candidature of Mr 
Saklatvala for Battersea North, stating that the candidate should appear 
before the constituency with the designation of ‘Labour Candidate’ only, 
independent of all other political parties, and if elected should join the 
parliamentary Labour Party; that at the General Election he should, in 
his election address and in his campaign give prominence to the issues 
as defined by the National Executive from the general Party 
programme; that if elected he should act in harmony with the 
Constitution and Standing Orders of the Party. 

On March 3rd 1922 a letter was received from Mr Coltman, addressed to 
Mr Wake, stating that he had called a Special Meeting of the Executive 
Committee of Battersea North, at which Mr Saklatvala was present, and 
that the following resolution had been unanimously passed: ‘That this 
Special Meeting of the Executive Committee of Battersea Trades Council 
and Labour Party accepts the endorsement of the candidature of Mr 
Saklatvala for Battersea North on the conditions laid down in the 
communication from the Labour Party dated December 12th 1921,’ and 
that Mr Saklatvala, who was present at the Committee, reaffirmed his 
adhesion to the conditions laid down in the above-mentioned 


149 



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communication and that a copy of this letter had been sent to Mr 
Saklatvala, who would no doubt reply in due course. 

Mr Henderson said the delegates would now see the position that the 
Executive took up with regard to the Saklatvala candidature. If there 
was anything wrong with that candidature, in his judgement it was not 
from the standpoint of the Labour Party but from the standpoint of the 
Communist Party. Mr Saklatvala who was a delegate sitting in that 
Conference, knew full well that he was in exactly the same position as 
one of their candidates as any of the 73 members of the House of 
Commons, or any of the 400 candidates whom the Executive had 
endorsed. 

The Scottish people had not got the other people up to that position, and 
he hoped that until they did their candidate would not be endorsed, as it 
would be a most unfortunate thing for the Party if they were not going to 
make all their candidates accept the same conditions, no matter by 
which constituency they were nominated. 

A Delegate asked whether it was not a fact that Mr Foulis had definitely 
refused to sign the undertaking of the Labour Party 
Mr Henderson replied that that was so, and that was why he said he 
hoped they would all be made to toe the same line. 

Another Delegate asked whether it was a fact that there were other 
candidates who were members of the Communist Party whose 
candidatures had been endorsed by the Executive. 

Mr Henderson said there was not one to his knowledge, and they would 
see that the Executive had exercised a great deal of care before it 
endorsed the candidature at North Battersea.” 

(Later on W. Windsor and J. Vaughan, both communists, were endorsed as 
Labour candidates for Bethnal Green, North-East and South-West 
respectively; neither of them won a seat in parliament). 


150 



Appendix B to Chapter 8 : 
‘Explanatory Notes on the Third 

International’ 


‘Explanatory Notes on the Second International versus the Third 
International, the Soviets, and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ 

The Second International cannot be called a Socialist International, as is 
proved both by its composition and the decisions it came to at its recent 
meetings in Berne in January - February 1919 and in Amsterdam in 
April 1919. 

The Second International adheres to the ‘Social Patriotic’ Parties which 
supported their capitalist governments during the war. These include 
the British Labour Party; the Belgian Socialist Party, which even after 
the war, is taking part in a new capitalist coalition formed since the 
armistice; and the Social-Democratic Party of Scheidemann and Noske 
in Germany, which in upholding the capitalist system, threatened by the 
first revolution, even abetted the murder of Rosa Luxembourg, Karl 
Leibknecht, Leo Yogehes and large numbers of other devoted socialists. 
The Italian, Swiss, Serbian and Romanian socialist Parties refused to 
take part in the Conference of the Second International at Berne, and 
the Norwegian socialist Party, as also the German Independent 
socialists opposed to the Noske- Scheidemann Party, have now seceded 
from the same. 

The Second International fails to recognise the conflict of class interests 
created by the capitalist system, takes up a reformist, instead of a 
socialist programme, and therefore it decided for: 

(1) The League of Nations 

Because of its failure to recognise the working class struggle, the Second 


151 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


International proposed to give to the League of Nations the power to 
rectify frontiers at any time and to control the production and 
distribution of food-stuffs and raw materials throughout the world. 
Such powers in the hands of a capitalist League of Nations, whether 
composed of representatives of governments, or of capitalist majorities 
in Parliament, would be used, as was done against the Workers’ 
Revolution in Russia, in every other country where their interest was at 
stake. 

(2) Free Trade and the ‘open door’ in the colonies. 

The exploitation and practical enslavement of the colonial natives 
notwithstanding ! 

(3) The Recommendation of: The establishment of an International 
Labour Charter by the League of Nations. 

They placed the framing of a Labour Charter in the hands of a League in 
which employers predominate, and made a recommendation in line 
with that which created the National Alliance of Employers and 
Employed. 

Russia: 

On Russia three resolutions were before the Second International at 
Berne. One of these by the French Communist, Loriot, upholding the 
Bolsheviks, received no support. Even the mild resolution declaring that 
the Conference had not sufficient material to judge of the state of affairs 
in Russia, found favour with a very small minority only. The resolution 
adopted by the majority, and supported by the British section, declared: 

(4) Against the Soviets. 

(5) Against the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. 

(6) Against socialism, with control of industry by the workers in it. 

(7) For bourgeois democracy, including Parliament, with a government 
responsible to it, and freedom of speech, press and assembly. 

(8) For nationalisation of industry ‘under the control of the democracy,’ 
apparently through Parliament, like the Post Office. 

Labour Legislation: 

(9) The Berne Conference adopted a long reformist programme, which it 
called a Labour Charter, and which included the following 


152 



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commonplace provisions: 

Compulsory primary education, free higher education. 

Children under 15 years not to be employed in industry. 

Eight hour working day, six hours for children between 15 and 18 years. 
Wages Boards representing employers and employed to fix wages for 
home industries. 

A legal minimum to be fixed in sweated industries by Wages Boards, 
equally representing employers and employed. 

Unemployment to be reduced by linking up the Labour Exchanges, and 
by unemployment insurance in each country. 

A permanent Commission, consisting of an equal number of the 
governments, which are members of the League of Nations, and of the 
International Trades Union Federation. 

This Labour Charter, drawn up by the pseudo-socialist Conference of 
the Second International, formed the basis of the Labour Charter 
afterwards adopted by the capitalist League of Nations. 

The Permanent Commission of the Second International Meeting in 
Amsterdam in April 919 issued further declarations: 

(10) It made a point of demanding self-determination for Georgia, 
Estonia and the Ukraine, at a time when the revolutionary workers of 
those states fighting to unite with Soviet Russia, were being forcibly 
suppressed, and their capitalists were making war on Soviet Russia, 
which granted the independence of those states. 

(11) It said that it ‘welcomes the introduction into the Covenant of the 
League of Nations of the idea that peoples unable to stand on their own 
feet shall be placed as wards, under the protecting care of the advanced 
states.’ 

How blind is the Second International regarding the ‘protecting care’ of 
capitalistic governments! Peoples of Ireland, India, Egypt, Persia, all 
‘unable to stand on their own feet!’ 

(12) It declared that ‘the economic opportunities of colonies should be 
open to all nations equally.’ 

It said nothing about the rights of the real and natural owners of 
colonial lands! 


153 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


(13) It demanded that Germany should make reparation for the war 
losses of the Allies as required by the Wilson programme, characterising 
this as ‘both necessary and just.’ 

(14) It demanded open diplomacy as employed by President Wilson 
with regard to the differences between Italy and the Yugoslavs. It said 
this method guarantees that the claims of the different nations shall be 
settled strictly on the justice of each case and in the only way calculated 
to assist the permanency of a world peace. 

In that sentence is summed up the Second International’s disregard of 
the realities of capitalist diplomacy and Imperialism, and of the fact that 
under capitalism, international disputes are settled according to the 
strength of the contending parties. 

(15) It declared that it was ‘determined to oppose any peace which is in 
contradiction to President Wilson’s 14 points, as those form the only 
basis which will ensure an enduring harmony between all peaceful and 
free democracies.’ 

Thus the Second International takes its stand with bourgeois politicians, 
and asks only for mild reforms within the capitalist system. 

The Third International: 

The Third International was inaugurated in Moscow in response to the 
call of the Russian Communists. To it the Italian socialist Party, as well 
as Communist Parties in France, Germany, Austria, Holland, America, 
China, Japan and other countries affiliated, 

The Third International stands for: 

1. The overthrow of capitalism and the substitution of socialism. 

2. The abolition of the present parliamentary and Local government 
system and the substitution of Soviets, which are composed of delegates 
from the workers in industry and on the land, from the Army and navy, 
from villages and hamlets where the population is too sparse to be 
represented occupationally, and from women not employed in industry; 
the delegates to be always subject to recall by, and to receive 
instructions from, and report to those who elect them. 

3. The dictatorship of the workers during the stage of transition from 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


capitalism into communism. This means that only the persons engaged 
in productive work, who do not employ others for private gain, may vote 
or be elected or possess political power. This certainly does not 
disqualify any honest able-bodied person that does not wish to shirk 
work. This dictatorship is necessary to prevent the capitalists from re- 
establishing capitalism, and from committing sabotage against the 
communist society. The dictatorship will last until capitalism is extinct 
and the ex-capitalists have settled down to work in the communist 
community. 

4. The socialisation and workers’ control of the land and the industries. 
This means that the land and the industries will become the property of 
the nation as a whole, and that they will be administered by committees 
of the people engaged in working in them. 

5. Every member of the community doing useful work for the 
community is entitled to assured sustenance, whether well or ill, old or 
young, in accordance with the general standard of living. Thus, in Soviet 
Russia, though complete communism is not yet achieved, the people are 
moving towards equality of remuneration, and everyone is assured of 
the usual wages during illness or in old age. 

6. Everything to be free to the children. Education is free to all, and 
there is maintenance for students; the age for leaving school in 1920 was 
fixed at 20 years of age; though it may be that war conditions have 
caused the postponement of this decree. 

7. Self determination of peoples by a referendum vote of all the men and 
women over 18 years of age in disputed territories. 

8. Disarmament of the bourgeoisie in all countries, and arming of the 
workers to protect the socialist communities from capitalist attacks until 
capitalism has disappeared, when armaments will no longer be 
necessary. 

9. Abolition of all racial distinctions. Whoever goes to live and work in 
Soviet Russia becomes a citizen of the Soviet state with full citizen rights 
without regard to his or her original nationality, race or creed. 

10. A world federation of communist republics. 

11. The Third International, recognising the capitalist nature of the War, 


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voiced the demand that it should be ended on the basis of no 
annexations, no indemnities, the right of the peoples to decide their own 
destinies. 

The Third International recognises the class war. It calls: ‘Workers of all 
countries unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.’ The Third 
International struggles directly for socialism. 

The Second International advises the workers to make the best of 
capitalism and to form councils of employers and employed. 

The Soviets: 

A good deal of unnecessary doubt is created in the public mind 
regarding Soviets and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat by persons who 
desire to continue as ‘socialists’ but who dare not be advocates of true 
and bona-fide socialism that refuses to shake hands with capitalism. 

First a good deal of capital is made out of the fact of the word Soviet 
being a foreign word in all countries except in Russia. Once upon a time 
the French word ‘Parliament’ must have equally shocked the forefathers 
of the Anglo-Saxons of Britain, who ultimately adopted it as being the 
most convenient one word that expressed a series of new ideas. 
Translate the word as you may in different languages, but the purpose is 
obvious that it is desired to express by this one word a new chain of 
thoughts showing the marked and fundamental differences between the 
new socialist organisation and the old parliamentary systems, viz.: 

1. A genuine representation of all groups of people. 

2. A full and continuous control over the representatives by the electors, 
by the right of recall. 

3. Full local autonomy of the people to appoint or dismiss their own 
officers from their own ranks. 

4. An unrestricted franchise to all honest workers of adult age (or those 
physically unable to work) without sex or economic or social disabilities 
as in British Parliament, or colour, race and creed bar, as observed in 
America and British South Africa. 

It is obvious that those who use the short term ‘Soviet’ as against 
‘Parliament’ desire to express in one word these fundamental and 
several other principles whose superiority over existing systems cannot 


156 



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be denied. Every country and people may adopt a different word for 
expressing the same idea, but before this is done, the word Soviet is the 
most convenient to use, and best understood internationally. 

To argue that what is good for Russia is not good for Britain, and what is 
good for Britain is not good for China, is the very negation of 
international socialism which seeks a new international mode of life to 
replace capitalism which, in its essentials, is uniform and universal in all 
countries of the world. 

The Dictatorship of the Proletariat: 

These words can also be moulded into a number of misinterpretations. 
The fundamental and political social changes in British life, e.g., the 
Reformation, the Civil War, The Glorious Revolution, the struggle for 
parliamentary Reform, Chartism, the memorable Peterloo and the rise 
of the Unions, all give historical proof of what was done in these Isles 
during periods of transition from the existing to a new state of affairs. 
No settled human society lives without a final arbitrament. 

We have dictatorship in the United Kingdom at every turn of life. The 
real issue is, shall it be a dictatorship of the minority over the vast 
masses, or shall it be the dictatorship of the wish of the masses over 
those who desire to disagree and overturn the plans of the masses. We 
have examples of both kinds in daily life in Great Britain. Every public 
meeting is under its chairman, who in his turn is under the dictatorship 
of the meeting in certain matters. Grown-up patients in a hospital are as 
much under the restrictive orders of the staff as children in a school or 
inmates of a prison. 

The masses here recognise generally the value of primary education, 
and the proletariat fines, punishes and compels the parents in minority 
who do not believe in universal education. Similarly we have penalties 
for persons driving on the wrong side of the road, or spitting in public 
places, and disagreeing minorities are not at liberty to ‘exercise freedom’ 
in matters which the proletariat consider to be of communistic 
advantage. In our entire economic and political life we are absolutely 
under the Dictatorship of a powerful minority. 

During the transition period when: a) the supreme power is to be passed 
out of the hands of a privileged minority and handed over to the masses; 


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and b) when the poor down-trodden masses, accustomed to life-long 
bondage and hereditary submission are to be called upon to remain self 
assertive and undiminished in the new ideology, it becomes evident to 
the thinking mind that the super-imposed as well as the self-imposed 
dictatorship of the proletariat over the selfish opponents as well as over 
the diffident and relapsing proletariat themselves would be needed. 

The raising of the marriage age in India by the almost common consent 
of the people, or America going dry by the vote of the majority does not 
denote that enforcement of these principles will no longer be needed. 
The hue and cry against the dictatorship of the Proletariat in new 
socialist states is at best futile, and at worst, malicious. 


158 



Appendix C to Chapter 8 : 
Saklatvala’s Election Addresses of 

1922 


Saklatvala’s General Election addresses of 1922 
North Battersea Division. 

Vote for Saklatvala the Labour Candidate. 

Polling Day Wednesday November 15th 8am to 9pm 
Electors of North Battersea, 

I DO know where I am, though Mr Bonar Law does not. After our folly 
in the 1918 Election you ALL do know where you are today and where 
you want to be! 

Our gullibility in December 1918, has shut down workshops to a million 
and a half honest British Workers, with degrading cuts in wages to four 
million others. Our Tory- Liberal Rulers have devastated three fourths of 
Europe, and have antagonised practically the whole of Asia, and wonder 
why we are workless. 

If elected, I pledge myself to the fullest extent to support the well-known 
programme of the Labour Party. To meet the changing positions which 
will arise, I promise to present myself to my Labour electors, about once 
a month, to ascertain their wishes on all fresh issues. 

The spirit of the Labour Programme may be summarised as under: 

1) A Levy on massed fortunes exceeding £5,000, for the specific purpose 
of unloading the weight of National Debt. Mr Bonar Law said, to a 
deputation in the House, on November 14th 1917, ‘My own feeling is 
that it would be better, both for the wealthy classes and the country, to 
have this Levy on Capital, and reduce the burden of the National Debt; 


159 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


that is my own feeling.’ TAXATION, FOOD PRICES, and HOUSE 
RENTS, can NEVER be LOWERED OTHERWISE. 

2) A more just distribution of the INCOME TAX, relieving the Middle- 
Class wage-earner, and abolition of TAXES ON FOOD and the 
necessaries of life. 

3) Prompt NATIONALISATION of such Industries, to begin with, where 
grievous harm by private ownership has already been proved. This 
would lead to re-organisation of all Industries and International 
Commerce, and ABOLISH UNEMPLOYMENT and periodical Reduction 
of Wages. 

4) An immediate transformation of the Imperial relations of England 
with Ireland, Egypt, and India, and an equitable and honest inter- 
relationship with all the peoples of the world through a UNIVERSAL 
INTERNATIONAL MACHINERY, in place of the present 
conglomeration of armed nations. 

5) Immediately to provide for the long-neglected social and intellectual 
needs of the people, in the shape of STATE HOUSING, the highest 
possible type of STATE EDUCATION, and ample financial provision for 
Aged People, Mothers, Widows, Orphans, Ex-Service victims, and 
Locked-out Workers. 

6) To strengthen the House of Commons, elected on an ADULT 
SUFFRAGE for Women and Men, and to strengthen the Working-Class 
Organisations, as effective weapons of defence of mass rights. At present 
the two Houses of Parliament are used as convenient tools against the 
people by Political and Financial cliques, and the Organisations of the 
Working Classes, really representing the majority of the population, are 
continually defrauded and defied. THE TRADE UNION CONGRESS OF 
1869 STARTED WITH A DEMAND FOR DIRECT INDUSTRIAL 
REPRESENTATION, WHICH IS YET TO COME. 

Do not listen to the cry of ‘Wolf, Wolf,’ against the Capital Levy. Large 
Banking Accounts in the name of wealthy persons or Corporations, built 
on the strength of the War Debt, really represent unscrupulous 
profiteering out of the Nation’s need during the War. On this Debt the 
Nation is called upon to pay £340,000,000 yearly. We are asked to 
saddle posterity with this unbearable burden, not because we gave them 

160 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


any New Houses, Schools or Hospitals, but because our Rulers, from 
1914-1922 unscrupulously allowed a few Contractors and Merchants to 
use the War as a grand opportunity and medium for making exorbitant 
profits. This SURELY is not an honourable deed. Such National Loans 
are starving industries, and while the Unemployed Workers receive NO 
WAGES, the INTEREST on War Loans of the rich continues. We are all 
paying this £340,000,000, or £8 per head, man, woman and child in 
the shape of High Taxes and High Prices for Food, Clothing, Rents, 
Railway Travelling, Postages, etc. The Labour Party is determined to 
alter this. 

What is this talk of driving away Capital from the Country? Selfish rich 
people refuse to share the burden of the Nation in proportion to their 
surplus wealth, are threatening to take their Capital abroad, and are 
blaming the Labour Party for their action! This attitude justifies the 
claim of Labour to place all Capital under National Control, so that it 
may not be permitted by the Nation to go abroad, to the detriment of 
workers at home, in search of Cheap Labour and bigger Dividends in 
other parts of the world. In the 2 years, 1920-1921, for instance, 
£280,000,000 were invested in new concerns in India out of the huge 
war fortunes made in the British Empire, against the highest figure of 
£12,000,000 in any pre-war year. The individual British owners of 
Capital in the jute industry have opened 76 jute mills in India (of which 
98% are under British control), in order to earn 100% to 400% 
dividends out of the toil of the enslaved cheap Indian Labour (paid 14s 
to 38s per month), and they shut down the jute mills in Dundee. Similar 
instances of British capitalist rivalry against home industries can be 
quoted from authentic records. Capital under individual control of 
British Magnates, is going out to South America, to India, to China, to 
Africa, and even to Spitzbergen, in search of HIGHER PROFITS and 
LOWER STANDARDS OF LABOUR. 

Those who talk of confiscation of the Rich Man’s Property by the Labour 
Party are the very persons who, by enforcing unemployment, have 
driven millions of Workers to the Pawnshop, and, in consequence, had 
all their past savings confiscated. 

We are not concerned with the catch-cries of the Liberals or the Tories, 

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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


either in or out of the Coalition. During Strikes, Lock-outs, 
Unemployment, Wage-cuts, the Workers of Britain have found not the 
slightest difference between Liberal and Tory Employers. From 1906 to 
1914 the Liberals were in power, and after completely and wickedly 
mismanaging our International Affairs by secret intrigues and through 
commercial rivalries, they told us in August, 1914, that they had created 
a condition which, in their own words, MADE WAR INEVITABLE. 
Human beings were led to destroy human life on a larger scale than the 
wild beasts of the forest are ever known to have done. 

Then, in 1918, the Tories, assisted by the Liberals, promised us 
Universal peace. They pitched this country twice on the battle-front, 
once, against Russia, and then against Turkey, without the slightest 
regard for the constitutional voice of the People, till LABOUR rose equal 
to the occasion, and twice declared that the wishes of the masses to stop 
the war should prevail, and LABOUR’S VOICE DID PREVAIL 
They gave to Ireland a peace perched on bayonets; they practised 
towards the Egyptians a deception of the most flagrant type; they gave 
to India the massacres of Amritsar, the Moplas, and the Sikhs, and have 
locked up thousands of innocent men and women in British gaols. 

The freedom of these countries becomes necessary in the interests of the 
Working Classes of Great Britain, who have to depend in the future 
upon the raw materials and food stuffs from these countries, which can 
only be obtained by a free and friendly interchange, without the 
interference of Imperial Militarism. 

They talk of the CLASS WAR at home, and they charge Labour with a 
desire to foment Class War. While artificial Classes exist it is beyond 
human power to stop Class War, and we have today, as we always had, 
the perpetual Class War in out midst. The victorious few are compelling 
the many millions to live in indescribable slums, on insufficient or 
unhealthy food, to be ill-clad, when we all know the needs of the human 
body. LABOUR IS OUT TO STOP THIS CLASS WAR, by the effective 
method of eradicating this Class distinction. 

If we demand full Trade Union maintenance for the innocent 
unemployed, there is an outcry of ‘Bolshevism.’ All high state Officials, 
as Lord Chancellors, Privy Councillors, Cabinet Ministers, and also 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Directors of private Companies, are not paid by the time clock. They 
serve Society whenever they are called upon to do so, and they do what 
they please with their whole time whenever they are not required by the 
Society to give any services, yet all the while they get their full 
maintenance wages. The selfish society that devised Dividend 
Equalisation Funds are now revolting against any system of Wage 
Equalisation Funds which could support the unemployed. The root 
cause of many social evils of the unfortunate girls and juvenile offenders 
is economic environment, and rarely moral depravity. 

The outcry against the Labour Programme to relieve the lower middle- 
class earner from his Income Tax on unliveable incomes of £250 a year 
is discreditable. The wage-earner’s machinery for earning his salary is 
his body and his mind, and why should he not be permitted to maintain 
that in proper order before he begins to pay his Taxes, as the rich man is 
allowed to deduct his maintenance charges on industries? 

Beware of arguments used against Nationalisation as carried out by 
bureaucratic officials, who are of the class pledged to prove its failure, 
and who treat Nationalisation as an opportunity to favour Contractors 
and Profiteers. 

A genuine NON-CAPITALIST SCHEME OF NATIONALISATION will 
give full benefits to workers and consumers. 

May I be permitted to intrude upon your attention with a little personal 
note? You will, of course, be told I am a foreigner. The Liberal Party 
selected the first Indian MP, the Conservative Party selected another 
one, and recently, the House of Lords received in their midst the first 
Indian Peer [Satyendra Prassano, First Baron Sinha, took his seat in the 
upper house in February 1919 as the Under-Secretary of State for India]. 
Will it be wrong if the Labour Party, which is the Party of International 
Brotherhood, tries to do the same? My heart has never been foreign to 
the Labour Movement of this country, and there is not a part of 
Scotland, England, Wales, or Ireland, where there is a live Labour 
Movement, where I have not gone during the last ten years to give my 
free services to the Local Co-operative Branches, Trade Union Meetings, 
Labour Parties, Independent Labour Parties, or Communist Parties, as 
one of their own members. 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


In spite of desperate and ludicrous efforts on the part of Liberals and 
Tories alike to split the Working Class Movement into hostile fragments, 
THE LABOUR PARTY IS TODAY THE ONLY PARTY IN GREAT 
BRITAIN THAT STANDS SOLIDLY TOGETHER. The scare-cry of 
‘Communist,’ which is sure to be raised by eleventh-hour leaflets, will 
fortunately not frighten the Electors of North Battersea, as your two 
faithful servants on the London County Council, some half-a-dozen 
members of your Borough Council, and your retiring Mayor, have not 
proved themselves false to you, and have recently secured re-election as 
a token of your confidence. 

During my strenuous work in the Labour Movement, I have always 
remembered one thing, that I have to fight for and to work for, the 
Working Classes, as through them alone I see a chance for a truly 
humane world. It is my turn today to ask for your support, and it will be 
your turn after giving me that support on the 15th November to 
command my further services. 

Yours very cordially, 

SHAPURJI SAKLATVALA. 

455 Battersea Park Road, London SW11 

Mr Saklatvala’s LAST WORD 
To the Electors of North Battersea. 

Will you have further Wars, and International Hatreds, or International 
Fraternity and Peace and Progress at Home? 

From 1906 to 1914 Liberals were in power and had every facility at their 
disposal. 

They did not make universal friendships— their policy made War 
inevitable. They did not restore the Land to the People. They did not 
give freedom to Ireland. They did not administer justice in India (Lord 
Morley deported without trial nine honourable citizens against whom 
nothing has been proved). They did not give Educational facilities to the 
Children of the Poor as existed for the Children of the Rich. They 
pretended to safeguard Trade Unionism, but used the legislative 
machinery and the Forces against the Workers as freely as the Tories do. 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Their Candidate wants Profits and Royalties to remain, which means 
reduced Wages and Salaries. 

The Liberals today take credit for wishy-washy reforms, old age 
pensions, insurance, etc. These measures, more showy than useful, were 
the work of Mr Lloyd George, whom the Liberals now expose in his true 
colours, just as he exposes their impotency and hypocrisy. 

The Liberal Candidate for North Battersea claims that the Industries of 
Britain have been built up by capitalists, and he says, ‘Heaven help us if 
the wash-outs get hold of them!’ Workers of Britain, with your superior 
workmanship YOU have built up British Industries, and when you take 
control of them periodical stoppages will cease, unemployment 
disappear, and British Industries generally become stronger. 

Then there is the tricky argument: ‘Ah!’ say the Liberals, ‘We do not 
mind the Labour Party MANAGING them— we dread the Communists 
and socialists seizing them.’ The following is the official text of the 
objects of the British Labour Party: ‘To secure for the producers by hand 
and brain the full fruits of their industry... upon the basis of COMMON 
OWNERSHIP OF THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION...’ The following is 
the simple definition of the word ‘Communism’, as given in the Concise 
English Dictionary by Charles Annandale. MA, LLD: ‘Communism— The 
system or theory which upholds the absorption of all proprietary rights 
in a COMMON INTEREST: the doctrine of a community of property.’ 
The Liberals and the Conservatives do not like to see a community of 
property. They flourish on a community living in slums, on high rents, 
and on low wages, for the benefit of landlords, profiteers, and royalty 
owners... 

Mr Hogbin comes to you on behalf of the National Liberal Association, 
with an avowal to support Mr Lloyd George. It is rather a rash guess on 
the part of my friend to suppose that North Battersea wants to support 
Mr Lloyd George, whose dishonourable methods have ruined this 
country and shocked the whole world. When Conservatives inside and 
outside Parliament openly denounce a Liberal-Tory combination, to say 
the least it is a political imposture for candidates here and there to 
pretend that they represent two quarrelling factions. Self-help alone will 
save the People! We do not want benefactors and charity-mongers, and 


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MPs who are Masters of the People. We want Servants of the People 
who do not claim superiority for their brains, or profits and royalties for 
their few select brethren. 

Voters for North Battersea! Come along now and Vote for the 
Representative of the People’s Labour Party, 

S. SAKLATVALA 

Wm Louis Coltman, Election Agent 


166 



CHAPTER 9 


A New Voice for the People 

First parliamentary speeches on unemployment, 
imperialism, private enterprise. 


The newly-elected Saklatvala lost no time in making his maiden speech, which 
he delivered on Thursday 23rd November 1922 during the debate on the 
King’s speech that laid out the Conservative government’s plans for the new 
session of parliament. 

Saklatvala’s speech is quoted in full below: 

“The hon member who introduced the Motion thanking His Majesty for 
his Gracious Message said that as a newcomer he felt like a schoolboy. 
In a similar manner, and perhaps in a higher degree, I shall offer my 
apologies to you, Sir, as well as to the House, not only for tonight, but I 
am afraid, for all the nights that I shall be here. I am afraid that I may be 
misunderstood if I do not acquire what is known as the traditional 
manner of the House of Commons. 

“We, the 142 [Labour members] who have come here, and I who was but 
yesterday with the people of Battersea, know the voice and the minds of 
the people, and we, who have talked outside upon politics and 
governmental affairs, wish now that the genuine bona fide human voice 
be talked inside, and I would therefore appeal to you, Sir, to realise that 
if we are found especially wanting in certain mannerisms or if our 
phraseology is not up to the standard, it is not for want of respect or 
want of love for any of you, but simply because we of the people shall 
now require that the people’s matters shall be talked in the people’s 
voice. 

“His Majesty’s Gracious Message referred to the question of 
unemployment. Unemployment prevails largely in the constituency 
which I represent. The first immediate thing, that is perhaps not of so 
great consequence from a strictly political point of view, but is of very 
great consequence from the immediately psychological point of view, is 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the unfortunate attitude, at the beginning, of the Prime Minister. 

“The Prime Minister says that he believes in the division of labour, and 
also in assigning responsibility to Ministers. All that may be true. But it 
is sometimes welcome to the heart of the British people to be heard by 
the Prime Minister. If they want a deputation is the Prime Minister to be 
the judge concerning whether a matter is an appropriate matter for the 
Prime Minister to hear or not, when the people who may be 
unemployed, who may be hungry, may have a special desire to see the 
Prime Minister himself? 

“I make one last appeal to the Prime Minister. I agree with the Prime 
Minister, perhaps with a different viewpoint, that it would have been 
equally futile for the unemployed to have an interview with the Prime 
Minister or any other Minister. But it is just as well that they should see 
each other, for though no useful result could have been produced by an 
interview with the Prime Minister himself there is something in human 
life which is satisfying if not satisfactory, and if the Prime Minister 
would only have realised that it was a most satisfying measure, if not a 
satisfactory measure, to have seen a deputation of the unemployed, I 
believe that he would have spared the country a lot of unpleasant 
thoughts, and I think that even now it may not be too late. 

“Coming to the larger problem of unemployment, the Mover and 
Seconder of the Address pointed out in their speeches what was wanting 
in the Message. One of our hon members referred to the position in 
Central Europe. Somebody referred to the collapse of the exchanges, 
and reference was made to the high taxation. All that may be true, but 
are we to sit in this House and keep on analysing today the condition of 
yesterday, and going on analysing tomorrow the condition of today? Are 
we not determined once for all to analyse the root causes of it all and to 
apply the remedy which would remove the real evil? 

“It is perhaps an easy thing today to talk of the collapse of the exchanges 
on the Continent of Europe. Have we no right to ask those who have 
been ruling this country since 1906 until today as to what it was which 
brought about the conditions that produced the collapse of the 
exchanges of Europe? Have we no right to ask in a similar manner our 
friends and the government that is responsible today and the 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


government which was responsible during all these strenuous years of 
trial throughout the world as to how and why those conditions were 
produced? It is not satisfactory for us to say today that we are suffering 
because of these conditions. How are the lower exchanges to be set 
right? 

“One of our speakers said that the continent of Europe had been 
impoverished because capital had gone abroad. Who took it abroad? Is 
it a sign of disservice to the country for enterprising men to take their 
capital abroad? If that is so, what can be said of private enterprise in 
Britain itself, and those British citizens who are taking abroad British 
capital produced by British working men, day after day and year after 
year? 

“May I point out to the right hon gentleman, who today deplores the 
condition into which Europe has been brought by these greedy private 
enterprisers taking capital abroad, and ask him why over 74 jute mills 
have been erected in Bengal by British millers and capitalists who had 
got the capital produced with the hard toil of the workers of Dundee, 
with the result that today we have shut up shop in Dundee and our 
workers in Bengal are working at from 14s to 38s a month and 
producing for the owners dividends of from 150 per cent, to 400 per 
cent? 

“Out of the 124 coal companies in my country, India, I know that 102 
have been opened out by British capitalists who have taken capital 
abroad for these enterprises. If these are the root causes of private 
enterprise, may we ask our friends not to sit down and not to wait until 
the great calamity overtakes this country altogether, but to learn lessons 
from what has happened on the continent, and remove the causes which 
brought about the conditions which all of us agree are not worthy of any 
intelligent and civilised human race? 

“One of my colleagues referred to the position of the trade with India, 
especially the textile trade, and I understood the Seconder of the Motion 
to refer to it in passing, showing how it had become impracticable for 
the Austrians to buy Indian hides and the Germans to buy any Indian 
cotton, and so forth. I want the House to note, carefully that the loss of 
trade with India is due to two separate reasons. 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“One has been the desire of the, government in this country, who have 
always prided themselves as a constitutional nation and government, to 
try in the outside world the most unconstitutional method, namely, of 
dictating government to peoples in various parts of the world from 
outside. No Britisher would for a moment tolerate a constitution for 
Great Britain if it were written outside of Great Britain by people who 
are not British. In a similar way the constitutions for Ireland and India 
and Egypt and Mesopotamia should be constitutions written by the men 
of those countries, in those countries, without interference from outside. 
“But there is another great cause, and I wish the House to understand it 
clearly. That cause is private enterprise. The story of private enterprise, 
with all its glamour and its seductive tale, has gone out from these 
shores to India, and it is the rivalry due to the spirit of private enterprise 
which is responsible now, and will be responsible in the future, for one 
country depriving the workers of another country of their legitimate 
livelihood. It is the growth of this private enterprise, of these large 
corporations and trusts, these huge industrial concerns in India, which 
is beginning to tell its tale upon the workers of this country. I wish to 
make no secret of it. The cotton industry of this country is bound to 
suffer from this two-fold evil, namely, the political sulking of the people 
of India with the people of Great Britain, and the spread of private 
enterprise and of the so-called legitimate privileges of the private 
enterprisers. 

“The Indian private enterprisers have learned to ask for protective 
duties, for high dividends, for low wages, long hours, and all kinds of 
privileges which private enterprise in this country has claimed for 150 
years. It is this combination and the spread of the cult of private 
enterprise by the political bosses in this country which is working the 
min of the workers of this land. 

“In reference to the Near East there was a passing reference in the 
Address. I would not like to embarrass either the government or this 
House in dealing with the problem of the Near East or the Far East in a 
thoroughly different manner from that of the past if it be intended so to 
do. If the government merely intend to deliver different forms of 
speeches from those of the past government they will fail as the last 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


government failed. 

“I remember the time when a British Prime Minister had to stop a 
Catholic procession from forming in the streets of Westminster because 
the Protestants would not allow it. If that happened in the streets of 
London not many years ago under a Liberal government, I think that 
the less the Britisher talks of taking care of the minorities in Armenia or 
Mesopotamia or Ulster or Southern Ireland or anywhere else, the better 
it will be for him. There is quite enough for him to take care of in the 
minorities here. There are many minorities. 

“This morning we heard of the Prime Minister’s letter to the press 
relating to the unemployed who are now a minority in this country. The 
right hon gentleman exposes them as so many criminals. One reference 
in that correspondence was to the fact that these men had been dubbed 
criminals by a legal process in this country, because they dared to 
belong to political organisations which at present happen to be in a 
minority. The way in which that minority has been protected has been 
by bringing into operation legislative machinery, and by bringing the 
men for trial before judges or magistrates whose chief capital in the past 
has been party politics and party bitterness, which have made them 
incapable of dealing out justice. 

“With this one-sided political machinery men have been tried and have 
been put into gaol. Then the Prime Minister says, ‘This is a set of 
criminals.’ That is the way in which the minority in this country is 
protected by the majority on the question of the right to express political 
opinion. I think the Prime Minister knows very well that had it not been 
for several of these prosecutions and persecutions he would not today 
have had at his back the number of supporters that he has. 

“In reference to Ireland, I am afraid that I shall strike a jarring note in 
the hitherto harmonious music of this House. I am well disciplined and 
trained in the general principle of the Labour movement, namely, that 
the happiness of the world depends on international peace, and that 
international peace is possible only when the self-determined will of the 
people of each country prevails in each country. I deplore greatly those 
elements still existing in the Irish Treaty that are not compatible with 
that great and wholesome principle. It is no use denying the fact, for we 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


shall not in that way create peace in Ireland. 

“As a House we say that we are giving this Irish Treaty with a view of 
bringing peace to Ireland, but we know that it is not bringing peace. 
Either we are actuated by the motive of restoring thorough peace in 
Ireland or we are doing it as partial conquerors in Ireland. 

“Everyone knows that the Treaty has unfortunately gone forth as the 
only alternative to a new invasion of Ireland by British troops. As long 
as that element exists the people of Ireland have a right to say that the 
very narrow majority which in Ireland accepted the Treaty at the time, 
accepted it also on this understanding— that if they did not accept it the 
alternative was an invasion by the Black-and-Tans of this country. The 
Irish Treaty all along continues to suffer in Ireland from the fact that it 
is not a Treaty acceptable to the people as a whole. 

“If it were possible in some way in the preamble of the Treaty or by an 
Act of this House to allow the people of Ireland to understand that their 
country’s constitution is to be framed by them as a majority may decide, 
and that the alternative would not be an invasion from this country, but 
that this, country would shake hands with Ireland as a neighbour, 
whatever shape or form that government took, it would be quite a 
different story. Otherwise, whatever we may do, however many treaties 
we may pass, however unanimous the British may be in their behaviour 
towards Ireland, Ireland will not be made a peaceful country. 

“As in 1801 England gave them a forced Union, so in 1922 England is 
giving them a forced freedom. We must remove that factor. Unless we 
do so we shall not be giving to the Irish the Treaty of freedom which we 
have all decided mentally that we are doing. 

“When I say so, I put forward not my personal views but the views of 90 
per cent, of those Irishmen who are my electors. They have pointed out 
to me that, whereas under the threat of renewed invasion the Dail only 
passed the Treaty by a majority of barely half a dozen votes, Irishmen 
who are not under that threat— Irishmen who are living in Great Britain 
—have, by a tremendous majority, voted against it. As long as those 
factors continue to exist, the Irish Treaty is not going to be what we— in 
a sort of silent conspiracy— have decided to name it. The reality will not 
be there. The reality is not there. 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“Before I conclude I wish to refer to one point which is conspicuous by 
its absence from the King’s Speech. If in the Empire, this House and this 
government is going to take the glory of the good, they will also have to 
take the ignominy of anything disgraceful which happens outside this 
country. This government may not be responsible. This House may not 
be responsible. The people of this country may not be responsible. Yet 
there is something like a public voice and public prejudice, and if this 
government and this House are proud of their association with the 
Colonies and the Empire, this government and this House will also have 
to satisfy this country as well as outside countries, why the policy of the 
South African government, in hanging and shooting workers, was 
permitted and was kept quiet. 

“We are still calling Ireland a part of this Empire, and it is only last week 
that four young working-class lads, without an open trial and without 
even fair notice to their families, were shot dead. Even on the night 
before, their families were told that everything was all right, but on the 
following morning, when the mother of one of them went to convey a 
bundle of laundry to her son, she was informed that the poor boys had 
been executed. 

“These acts might be described as the acts of independent governments. 
Either these governments are independent or they are part of this 
Empire. If they are part of this Empire, then the government in the 
centre of the Empire must see to it that a policy of this kind does not go 
without challenge and without, at least, protest from this House, if 
nothing else can be done. 

“Our relationship with Russia is also a subject conspicuous by the 
absence of any mention. We hear of the revolution in Italy; we hear of 
Mussolini, the leader of it, and we have seen Mussolini’s manifesto. He 
does not care for the Italian Parliament, nor for the majority in it. He is 
going to rule the country by 300,000 most obedient and faithful 
followers who are fully armed. Here is a revolutionary. 

“But our Foreign Secretary is sitting in consultation with him. Our 
Foreign Secretary is shaking hands with him. We do not object on the 
ground that the Italian government is a revolutionary government. 
Why? Because the revolution in this case belongs to another class. 


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“We have the case of the King of Serbia. His Majesty King Edward for 
two years and more refused to have any dealings with him because he 
had slain the monarch who sat on the throne of Serbia before him. Yet 
we are friends of Serbia. We honour King Peter; we respect him; we call 
Serbia our Ally; we co-operate with the Serbians, yet if the monarch in 
Russia has been assassinated, or something had happened, we refuse to 
join hands with the people of Russia on that account. Why? Because in 
the Serbian Revolution class interest was topmost. In the Russian 
Revolution the mass interest came topmost. 

“I do not for a moment suggest that any of us in this House are 
purposely and consciously behaving in a dishonest manner. But the 
unfortunate part of every human life is that we are unconsciously the 
victims of many suppressed prejudices which are inborn in us and are 
traditional. Now we are face to face with a situation in this world in 
which, if we are not determined to burst out of these time-worn 
prejudices and boldly take a new place, if we are not prepared to push 
forward not only the good but the rights— even the sentimental rights— 
of the masses of humanity, into the forefront, and if the traditions, the 
family interests, the class privileges, the profits and dividends of private 
enterprise, are not set in the background, then neither this Ministry nor 
any other Ministry will cure the, evil, though they may deliver as many 
speeches as they please, upon it.” 

At least on the question of unemployment, Saklatvala’s maiden speech upheld 
the official policy being pursued by the Labour Party. Ramsay MacDonald, 
leader of the party and of HM opposition, had said earlier in the debate: 

“May I appeal to the Prime Minister, apart from the larger issues of this 
debate, to do something to allay the agitation that is gathering up in 
connection with his refusal to see the deputation from the unemployed 
men who are in London now?... 

“I urge upon him that it is his duty to give the most tangible and simple 
proof... that he understands the distressful position in which these 
people are placed, and the best way to do that is not to take up a merely 
red-tape attitude but... to see these men and to tell them what his 
desires and intentions are... 

“We have a system that blocks the road with Rolls Royce cars when the 


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rt hon gentleman became Leader of his Party, and which, the next week, 
blocks the Strand with processions of unemployed.” 

However, on the question of Ireland, Saklatvala did not toe the party line. The 
most pressing business before the House was the urgent second reading of the 
Irish Free State Constitution Bill on 27th November 1922. In the King’s speech 
opening the session a few days before, it had been stated that: 

“A Constitution for the Irish Free State having been passed by the House 
of Parliament established under the Irish Free State Act of the last 
Session of Parliament, and it being required by the terms of that Act 
that the Constitution should come into force by December 6th 1922, His 
Majesty had summoned His Parliament to meet in order that the 
legislation necessary to give effect to that Constitution and to make the 
provisions consequential on the Establishment of the Irish Free State 
might be at once submitted for the approval of the House.” 

The MP for West Ham, David Margesson (Unionist), seconding the Address to 
the King, had said of Ireland: 

“The present session has been made necessary... in order to bring to a 
conclusion, so far as this Parliament is concerned, the policy in relation 
to Ireland which was left incomplete by the late government. Some of us 
who have now for the first time entered this House may, perhaps, 
congratulate ourselves that there is no occasion to express any opinion 
as to the wisdom or otherwise of that policy. 

“It has been publicly acknowledged even by those who most strenuously 
opposed the Treaty, that there is no longer any course open to this 
House, consistent with statesmanship and honour, other than to carry 
out the Treaty which the last Parliament accepted by an Act now on the 
Statute Book. Our part in the transaction is, in fact, purely formal. We 
have merely to seal and deliver an instrument already signed on behalf 
of the English people.” 

The approval of the House of Commons was being taken for granted and the 
completion of the necessary formalities were being treated as a fait accompli. 
It was not the first time, and was assuredly not to be the last, that decisions of 
historic importance, crucial to the peace and stability of the world, were to be 
taken under the pressure of a self-imposed time limit, so that neither the 
decision-makers themselves nor the general public had time to realise all the 


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ramifications of the decisions being taken. Alas, we are still suffering violence 
and death in the streets of Ulster and, causing far greater outcries, even in the 
cities of mainland Britain. More time alone would not necessarily have been 
enough; time, wisdom and vision were needed, and all these also appear to 
have been in short supply. 

Rising to open the debate on the Irish Free State Constitution Bill, Bonar Law 
expressed the government’s regret that the time for dealing with it was so 
short, adding: 

“I think that any government elected would have realised that if a really 
great calamity was to be prevented, this Bill should be passed by the 6th 
December... the circumstances are such that, in my belief, so far as the 
government are concerned... our liberty of action is circumscribed 
within the narrowest limits.” 

Ramsay MacDonald, speaking as Leader of the Opposition, in associating 
himself with the sentiments expressed by Bonar Law, said: 

“The less said about this Bill the better. Criticism is useless, sympathy is 
dangerous. All that this House can now do in relation to Irish 
government is to implement its part of the agreement and allow the Bill 
to become law...” 

Despite the time limit, the debate became a lively one when Colonel Gretton, a 
Unionist member, painted in lurid though imprecise terms a picture of rape, 
pillage, shootings, sabotage and chaos amounting to “anarchy and civil war” in 
southern Ireland. He was frequently challenged by opposition members, who 
asked for names of the places involved, and who questioned the veracity and 
accuracy of the horror stories related. 

It was quite late in the debate when Saklatvala rose and, new boy as he was, 
dropped something of a verbal bombshell in the form of an amendment: 

“I beg to move, to leave out the word ‘now’, and at the end of the 
Question to add the words ‘upon this day three months’. 

“I realise the unpopularity I am courting in taking this step, but it was 
distinctly understood between my electors and myself that they did not 
wish me to back up a Treaty which was based upon coercion, and was 
signed under duress. I do not now speak on behalf of the Labour Party 
in this House. I wish that to be made perfectly clear. I maintain that, 


176 



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perhaps as a purist, I adhere in the amendment to a principle that the 
Labour Party has laid down, namely, the principle of self-determination. 
It is not to be understood that I do not share the wishes or the prayers of 
my chief, nor is it to be understood I have not the same desire as my 
colleagues, but I must frankly admit that I do not share their hopes. 

“I believe that the only cure will come when either this government or a 
future Labour government tells our friends in Ireland that they have a 
right to a genuine and bona fide self-determined voice of their own. 
Unless that is done, neither the Treaty nor the Constitution nor the Bill 
now before the House is likely to do what we all, against our convictions, 
hope that they may do. 

“We talk of a Treaty. Hon. members on all sides of the House have 
written and spoken in unmistakable terms in expressing their views that 
the unfortunate part of the Treaty was that the signatures were obtained 
under duress. I feel that duress was undoubtedly there, and the 
unfortunate fact was that it need not have been there. If matters had 
been left to the free will and the good sense of the people, the result 
would have been quite different from what it has been. 

“We have heard today quotations and illustrations of similar enactments 
for colonies and dominions of the Empire. Is there any real parallel 
between those Constitutions and the hopes and desires of the people of 
the countries concerned and the hopes and desires of the Irish people? 
Was Australia not rejoicing and waiting almost to a man and woman for 
the day when her Constitution would be confirmed by this House? Was 
not South Africa, after a great war and defeat, gratefully awaiting the 
day when the Treaty would be passed and the little minority of the 
republicans in a constitutional manner would be permitted to express 
themselves as a minority? The people of Canada, too, were determined 
to have their Constitution and to work it. 

“The case of Ireland is different. It is no use our pretending that it is not 
so. We cannot adopt the policy that by driving deeper into the soil the 
roots of a cactus, and by carefully covering it with soil, roses will grow 
later on. 

“I pay my homage to the great spirit that reigns in this House today, and 
to the great spirit that pervades the people who sent members to 


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represent them in this House. I admire that spirit at its full value. In 
spite of all the bitter differences in the past, we are determined to come 
to a genuine and sincere unanimity upon this question. Were we settling 
the matter in dispute here among ourselves, that spirit would give us a 
permanent solution; but our unanimity does not affect the disunity in 
Ireland, and that point does not seem to be before this House as 
emphatically as it ought to be. 

“Was there ever an instance in the history of treaties where immediately 
after a treaty had been signed, two out of the five signatories had to 
repudiate their signatures as not having been put down with a bona fide 
and conscientious intention? The hon member for Spen Valley (Sir John 
Simon) was pointing out to us the great improvement which has taken 
place since the Treaty. I am sorry to hear argument of that kind being 
advanced on rather imperfect observation. 

(Hon. members: “Hear, hear!”) 

“The imperfect observation which I wish to point out is not referred to 
in the spirit of the hon and gallant member for Burton (Col. Gretton). It 
is quite in another direction. In the first instance, what is the 
constituent assembly which has sent us this document? Soon after the 
Treaty and, apart from anything that was ever contemplated at the time 
of the Treaty, a truce was entered into between the factious parties in 
Ireland creating an artificial Dail to tackle the problem of the Treaty. I 
take no sides with either of the Irish parties, but I maintain that truce, 
or that promise to observe a truce was not fair to the people of Great 
Britain, and it was certainly more than unfair to the people of Ireland. 
“Under the truce it was decided to call an artificial constituent assembly, 
and when the moment came, even that truce was not observed, and the 
so-called constituent assembly cannot on any bona fide and sincere 
principle of self-determination, be accepted as a truly and properly 
elected Dail representing the people of Ireland in the ratios and 
proportions in which they stand. I was present at the last great Labour 
Conference in Ireland; I attended its sittings in Dublin and I saw there 
written down in black and white and heard proclaimed from the 
platform: ‘A plague on both your houses!’— on both parties, both the 
pro-Treaty and the anti-Treaty party. 


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“I have heard it declared that Irish Labour, well organised, is 
determined to work for a workers’ republic. These are the views that are 
being expressed, and the Labour Party in Ireland is bound to come into 
its own, however much hon members may jeer or laugh. The 
Republicans are there; it is no use denying that they are there in very 
large numbers, and it is extremely doubtful, if coercive measures were 
not taken, whether they would not prove themselves to be the majority 
of the people of Ireland. These facts cannot be ignored, and they cannot 
be buried or covered up. 

“We are assured by the Prime Minister that, according to Mr Cosgrave, 
Ireland is only waiting for the Constitution to be carried through this 
House, and that they are going to work it out. Mr Cosgrave knows that 
he had to shoot four human beings a week ago, and he has since had to 
take another life by violence— that of Erskine Childers. He knows that 
the prisons of Ireland are to be filled with thousands of men, and even 
some women, without charge and without trial. He knows that Ireland is 
to be prepared to receive this Constitution, not with joy and flags and 
illuminations, but with martial law, penalties and threats, imprisonment 
and ships waiting to depopulate the country. (Interruption) 

“I will ask you, Mr Speaker, to save me from those who are pretending 
to be my friends. I appeal to the Prime Minister and I appeal to the 
House. 

“Once, in 1801, our predecessors and your forefathers thought they had 
worked a great political trick and a mighty political charm when with 
great unanimity in Dublin and London they brought about the Act of 
Union. For 120 years that Act of Union has only produced distress to 
Ireland and disgrace to this country. I, as your friend— not as your critic 
nor as your opponent— feel that I am in conscience bound not to be a 
party to a bigger and greater mockery. 

“Until the Labour Party in this country comes into power, until genuine 
self-determination is permitted to the people of Ireland, there is going 
to be neither peace nor fidelity to the Treaty, nor the carrying out of the 
Free State government, nor any of the ‘tosh’ we have been hearing of 
late. 

“I am speaking in a most difficult position. I know I seem to be the 


179 



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friend of my enemies and the enemy of my friends, but time and history 
will prove my case. I shall not be at all sorry or shamed to say that even 
if you were all unanimous, I stood aloof and away from you. Within five 
years this House will find the necessity for undoing this unanimous or 
semi-unanimous Act after more distress and more suffering. 

“Let me predict that it will be the Labour Party sitting on those benches 
which will have to afford real freedom to Ireland. Instead of merely 
expressing a pious opinion, I take my courage in my hands and, true to 
my convictions, I move this amendment in order to create an 
opportunity for myself to vote against this Bill.” 

The next day, the Manchester Guardian, under a sub-heading ‘Indian 
Communist Amendment’ reported that: 

“After an amendment of an obviously irresponsible character (moved by 
Mr Saklatvala and seconded by Mr Newbold), for the rejection of the Bill 
had been negatived without a Division, the Bill received its 2nd Reading 
without challenge.” 

Small wonder that Father said he was taking his courage in both hands! He 
had been in the House barely a week, he had been accepted by the Labour 
Party, if not reluctantly at any rate cautiously; the opposition were to support 
the Bill— and he stood up to move an amendment so that he would have an 
opportunity to vote against it. That needs a very special courage in my view; 
unlike a heroic act of courage which evokes praise and adulation, this kind of 
courage evokes derision, rejection and the jeers of your peers; it isolates you 
from your colleagues. 

Father was to show this particular brand of courage in full measure 
throughout his political life; he was often alone; he may have been sometimes 
in a small minority but he was never one of the crowd. It is a form of courage 
that, lacking it myself, I admire almost more than any other. (Of course I 
cannot claim to be objective in this judgement— he was my father, after all). 
Writing four years after this event, Shapurji recalled: 

“...After a whirlwind campaign in the Election of 1922, I found myself 
ushered in to the Assembly of Westminster. My critics who were jesting 
and jeering and my friends who were smiling in doubt, confidently 
looked forward to my immediate conversion to the requisite mentality 


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for the Mother of Parliaments... 

“I came fresh from a constituency where most of the Irish electors were 
annoyed by the proposed Irish settlement, and, as in duty bound, I 
attempted to act up to the expectations of my democratic voters. 
Ridicule, contempt, sneers, showered from all sides and a look of ‘cut 
him out— he’s no good to us in this assembly’ seemed to be on the faces 
of all my colleagues. The heavy frowns were not limited to reactionary 
capitalists, for [Ramsey] MacDonald’s and [Arthur] Henderson’s frowns 
were even more severe.” 

After Saklatvala’s contribution to the debate on the Irish Free State 
Constitution Bill, Colonel Wedgewood (who had left the Liberals to join the 
Labour Party in 1919, and who was to develop a House of Commons friendship 
with Saklatvala as time went by) expressed the hope that he would not proceed 
with a division. He said the only result would be that he would find himself in 
the lobby with a large number of members with whom he really had no 
possible point of agreement. He went on to say: 

“I ask the hon member for Battersea to consider what would happen if 
he got his way and if this Bill were rejected. It would then appear that 
Great Britain having signed the Treaty is determined by the voice of a 
new Parliament to cancel the Treaty. I agree with the hon member there 
was a great deal which was undesirable in the way in which the Treaty 
was brought about. But whether those methods were desirable or 
undesirable we cannot now possibly go back upon the Treaty which was 
signed or fail to carry out to the letter the terms and the obligations into 
which we entered. The speech to which we have just listened, a very 
eloquent speech, ought to have been delivered not here but in the Dail 
[Irish parliament]...” 

Saklatvala fought as strenuously for freedom for the Irish people as he did for 
the people of his own land, India. To him it was one and the same fight against 
imperialism. The fact that Ireland lay so close to the shores of Britain made it, 
in his view, no less a victim of imperialistic aggrandisement. (Is it not strange 
that the Isle of Man, closer to the UK mainland, should have its own 
Parliament, while a United Ireland could not enjoy the same right?) 

Apart from his strong personal views, he had given an undertaking to the Irish 
constituents in Battersea to do all in his power to further the granting of self- 

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determination to the people of the whole of a United Ireland; and he was not a 
man to break a pledge once given. 

Th* Executive of th« Labour Party deridiT 
lut night' to tvaxnmcnd a party nvsetiiir to 
retasa the applitaUon ol Mr. Newbolg, the 
Communist rnmbtr, |nr the party Whip. The 
Kiccntivo also aoddofi to review Mr. 

KiuLlatvislr.'s rolattoDaliip to the party. Oo 
Moctlay Mr. SaklotTala moved the reieetlon 
of tlio Irish Coaatitution Bill, although aa 
an approved Lslxxur Party . candidate bn 
ahonlil havn benn corn ml Usd to tbe ratification 
of the Irah Treaty, 

Clipping: The Times, 29th November 1922 
On Monday 4th December 1922 the Trade Facilities and Loans Guarantee 
(Money) Bill was to be considered by the House of Commons in Committee 
under the Chairmanship of Mr James Hope. The motion before the House was 
a composite and complicated one, and the debate did not start until 11 o’clock 
that night. Several opposition members asked: a) that the several items should 
be dealt with individually; and b) that decisions of such moment should not be 
made late at night when members were tired and, consequently, unable 
perhaps to make sound judgements. But the debate went ahead as planned. 
The first subject was The Trade Facilities Act, followed by discussion on a loan 
to Austria, and then on to the Treasury guarantee of interest on a loan for 
public works in the Sudan. It was on this last item that Saklatvala 
subsequently spoke, at about 3 o’clock in the morning of the 5th December. 
Stanley Baldwin, Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing the Motion, had 
stated: 

“It is to guarantee a loan to be raised by the government of the Sudan 
for completing the great dam which is to aid in the irrigation of a large 
part of the Sudan. The scheme is of greater magnitude than was 
originally contemplated and like all large schemes prices have increased 
and the estimates are considerably beyond any that were considered 
reasonable when the scheme was first propounded; but it has been 
investigated more than once recently by an expert sent out by the 
Treasury to advise, and his report is that, even after the expenditure of 
this increased sum, when the scheme is finished, the benefit to that 
country will be so great, that there should be no doubt of the Sudan 
itself being able to pay out of its revenues the interest required on the 
loan. 

“The whole object, or the main object is to enable cotton-growing to be 


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proceeded with in the Sudan. The Sudan, I am told, is one of the best 
fields in the world for growing long-staple cotton, and I am also told, by 
those who know the cotton trade, that there is a real fear that the supply 
of raw cotton in the world today is not sufficient for the world’s trade, 
and unless immediate steps are taken to increase the growing capacity 
of the world for cotton, great disaster will overcome, if not the cotton 
trade of the world, at any rate the cotton trade of this country, which is 
dependent entirely on imported cotton. 

“I am told that the area that it is proposed forthwith to irrigate is such 
that it will be possible to grow 70,000 bales for shipment each year to 
Lancashire. But as it may be possible when the dam is finished to bring 
under irrigation a vastly increased area to that already proposed, there 
seems no reason why the Sudan in... perhaps the not too distant future, 
will bid fair to become one of the great cotton-growing districts of the 
world...” 

J. Walton Newbold (Communist) spoke first on the Austrian issue and then 
took up the subject of the Sudanese loan. Throughout his speech he was 
barracked and interrupted; when he appealed to the Chair to keep order to 
enable him to speak, the Chair admonished him for criticising the Chair! In 
spite of the general schoolboy rowdiness he managed to continue: 

“Hon. members do not crowd those benches and support these 
Resolutions in the interests of liberty, in the interests of equality, in the 
interests of justice, but in the interests of the Stock Exchange, in the 
interests of the bankers, in the interests of the Manchester Chamber of 
Commerce (interruption), of the bill-brokers, of the cotton 
manufacturers, of the whole capitalist class that you are rolling up in 
your forces upon those benches. It is noticeable that this barrage project 
has the approval of a Committee presided over, I believe, by Sir R.M. 
Kindersley. 

“Sir R.M. Kindersley, curiously enough, happens to be the Chairman of 
Lazard Bros.; Lazard Bros., curiously enough, have half their share 
capital held by S. Pearson & Sons and Clive Pearson. These people are 
the building contractors engaged upon the dam.” 

At 2.40am, Commander Kenworthy (Labour) stood to move an amendment 
deleting the proposed guarantee: 


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“The Sudan is not the only country which has long-staple cotton... 
Sudan is not a safe field for British investment. I would not put my 
money there and I would not advise anyone else to put theirs. Egypt 
today is a smouldering volcano... The regime of martial law, which I am 
sorry to see is supported by British bayonets, is bound, sooner or later, 
to lead to trouble in that country. In these circumstances I regard it as 
very foolish to guarantee loans in that country... and it is not fair to ask 
the British taxpayer to guarantee this large sum of money... 

“The employment supplied in this country will not be at all comparable 
with the amount of money we are to guarantee. It may and will 
provide... employment in the Sudan, but at the present moment one of 
the grievances that is felt up and down the country is that our 
government has been extremely slow and lax in providing useful work 
for our own unemployed.” 

Mr P. Johnston (Labour), one of the Scottish MPs, then asked if the Sudan 
project was to be in private or in state hands. “Is the British public,” he asked, 
“being asked to guarantee large sums in order to ensure profit for private 
business in this country?” 

The night and morning were far advanced when Saklatvala rose to make his 
contribution to the debate: 

“I wish to call the attention of the Committee to the dangerous principle 
underlying the proposals put forward tonight, and I strongly take the 
view that the hon and gallant member for Central Hull (Lt. Commander 
Kenworthy) has put to the committee regarding this Sudanese scheme. 
There was a time when there were two parties in the House, both of 
which were interested in making loans and monetary grants. One was 
interested in taking up one group and the other was interested in taking 
up another group. There is now a third party [the Labour Party], and it 
has come to analyse the fundamental principle of these enterprises. 

“We want to know something more than the people in the past wanted 
to know. It is very curious. We have sat here today a round of the clock 
and we have not had one word about the glories of private enterprise. 
Private enterprise has a wonderful power of abrogating rights. It puts 
forward schemes for the benefit of humanity, but asks the unemployed 
to strive and fight when it is a question of really being enterprising and 


184 



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adventurous and taking risks. 

“Then private enterprise is gone. From Plymouth to Pimlico there is not 
a word of private enterprise. I submit that the plan as put forward by the 
government today in the shape of a guarantee is a worse burden upon 
the taxpayer and, if I may be allowed to say so, a more dishonest burden 
than if it were one thing or another.” 

(An hon member: “You pay your money and you take your choice.”) 

“If it were private enterprise and the private enterprise was asking the 
sanction of this House to invest money, and if we were merely feeling 
angry at them at securing in this House a share of future profits, that 
would be one way of getting the profit. If we are placing the burden 
upon the taxpayer and telling the taxpayer to take the profit, or lose out 
of it, that is another thing; but this clever device of a guarantee means 
that if profit ensues, private enterprise will get it, and if it is a loss the 
taxpayer will pay it. We are not so simple. We see through the scheme. It 
is a very unsound looking scheme of guaranteeing. It means the profits 
are mine and the losses are yours. 

“There is another point in regard to the former part of this Resolution. 
We were not told if any unconstitutional guarantee was exacted from 
the borrower, from the Sudan. We were told that if this House 
guaranteed 3V2 million pounds to begin with, and subsequently went 
further into it, this country required 70,000 bales to begin with of long 
stapled Egyptian cotton. 

“Why, may I ask, do we feel so certain that cotton grown in somebody 
else’s country, by the people of Sudan, shall for ever fall into our lap as 
our own property? We have not even got a Parliament in Sudan to 
smother and blackmail, and this is an unconstitutional law just as in the 
case of Vienna. We shall be told, perhaps three years hence in this 
House to sanction an expedition to Sudan to save our guarantee. That 
instrument of blackmail upon any Parliament in the Sudan does not 
exist. 

“The only weapon that does exist in the hands of the loan controllers is 
the British Army and the British Navy, and we shall one day be told that 
we have pledged our honour, we have granted the loan, we have 
promised safety to the investors, and we shall want to sink a few 


185 



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hundred millions to butcher the Sudanese to get our wretched money. 
We are engaged in a new departure of human butchery. That is, again, 
history repeating itself. 

“What right has this House to take it for granted that the poor Sudanese 
shall bend their necks and backs and go on growing cotton year after 
year? There is one very serious point. In the midst of starvation, hunger, 
distress, and death, many of the unemployed in this country heard the 
hollow talk of sympathy. Where is that sympathy tonight? It is all very 
well to give us misleading speeches when introducing new schemes, but 
we have got before us our past history. Let us know how in the past this 
country has been misled into the cultivation of raw material abroad, and 
how the workers of this country have been cheated out of the little work 
they had. 

“Take jute. The workers of this country were always told that by the 
production of jute in Bengal, and by the British government possessing 
it, the work of the workers in the Dundee works would be guaranteed for 
ever. At no time have the workers been so cheated by those who have 
the militaristic control. They were told that the people of India would 
never use for their own consumption more than 500,000 bales of jute. 
“The people of Dundee used to work about five to six times that quantity 
of jute in the Dundee mills. But in 1921 the Dundee mills were 
compelled to do their work on only about 600,000 bales, while the jute 
mills in Bengal, where the jute grows, worked upon 4,300,000 bales, or 
seven times as much as the Dundee workers. The workers in India were 
overworking, and the workers in Dundee had to shut up their shop.” 
(Hon. members: “Why not?”) 

“I do not say why not, but when you were talking about jute production 
in India, did you tell the workers of Dundee it was to stop their work 
and start it in India? I am not asking whether yes, or whether no. I am 
asking you something more difficult than that. I am asking you to be 
honest. I am asking you to take the full history of finer cotton in India. 
“You started the production of finer cotton in India, and what 
happened? Today, with the larger quantities of cotton, the Indian mills 
not only want to extend their industry, but demand that a prohibitive 
duty shall be placed on their goods. You might again ask, ‘Why not?’ 


186 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


That is not the question we are discussing tonight. Do you, then, tell the 
workers of Lancashire that one of the possibilities of growing finer 
cotton in India would be to curtail their work and increase their 
unemployment? 

“I ask you today— I am not indulging in larger questions, but taking this 
matter by itself— I am asking you today as men of the world, why do you 
not realise that this very cotton, this long-staple cotton growing in the 
Sudan, will be a temptation to some of you, which in the past you never 
had the strength of character to resist, to take Sudanese slave labour 
and start your spinning mills in the Sudan? 

“You will do it as you have done it all over the world. You will grow long- 
staple cotton, and then when you come to grips with the operatives of 
Lancashire, you, as you have done in the past, will be the people who 
will start cotton mills in the Sudan and shut up Lancashire. That is your 
history, which you cannot deny. You want to cover it up by talking of 
guarantees and investments and so on. I have heard of a gentle scheme 
where a paper was read by a government expert sent out by the 
Manchester University, about a detailed plan of improving the staple 
cotton in India, and one part of it was that the Indian farmer, the ryot, 
does not count. He is of no account, and one of the clauses of that 
scheme is that if the farmer fails to mix his seeds and spoils the profit of 
some Lancashire ‘boss’, there shall be imprisonment for him up to 6 
months.” 

The Chairman: “I cannot see the relevancy of all this.” 

Mr Saklatvala: “I was just showing the possibilities of what will happen 
in the Sudan. I am now coming directly to the point. In performing 
these two enterprises, you will have to fall back on human beings in the 
Sudan. You will have to rely upon their labour to grow cotton out of 
Nature. You will fall back on your methods of exacting toil out of human 
beings to suit your profits, and you will then introduce similar Clauses 
of imprisonment for farmers of the Sudan, and everything to secure you 
long-staple cotton. 

“If you succeed you will pocket the profits. If you fail, you will not only 
throw the burden on the taxpayers, but out of revenge for your failure, 
you will lead this country into another murderous expedition against the 


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Sudanese. That is the history of private enterprise guaranteed by 
governments. The guarantee to the Sudan means the guarantee and 
nothing else. You will then come to the House, if we permit you, with 
long-drawn faces one day and say, ‘The position is critical, but our High 
Commissioner is taking the situation in hand and he wants a few 
battleships and a few battalions.’ 

“We know that behind the thin end of this wedge of guarantees lies the 
same old seeking of profits, not in an enterprising spirit, but in an 
unenterprising spirit, so that if you succeed in the gamble the profit and 
the money and the glory are yours, and, if you fail, woe and death to 
those poor fellows in the country you tried to get, and the taxpayer who 
has to pay, not only for your loss, but for expeditions of revenge. 

“Not only that, but as sure as the sun rises you will in process of time go 
further into the Sudan and you yourselves will be the bosses and the 
owners of the raw material. You will put factories there, you will exploit 
the labour with the positive design of ill-treating and degrading labour 
in this country. 

(Laughter) 

“I can see when the smiles are falsely put on. The Rt. hon gentleman the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer answered many questions of triviality, but 
when he was touching on certain principles he forgot them, or perhaps 
he was asked to forget them by his colleagues. The hon member for 
Motherwell (Mr Newbold) put forward two glaring instances which, 
apart from any possible emotion in them, are certainly an underlying 
principle which generally, in outward life, you seem to discourage and 
discountenance, but which, in this very favourite appeal of the 
government, you seem not only to encourage and tolerate, but even to 
patronise and practice. 

“The member for Motherwell pointed out that here, in the name of the 
League of Nations, a gentleman who is going to be a beneficiary himself 
recommends a loan, and in the case of the Sudan, in the case of this 
contract, a gentleman who, directly and indirectly, is going to be a 
beneficiary, as a contractor, whether his tender was lowest or highest or 
‘middlest’, that does not matter— one who in principle was to be the 
beneficiary by a contract is himself the inspirer of the whole scheme of 


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giving a nice little guarantee. We do not want your money we only want 
your guarantee! 

“Day after day this slow degradation goes on. It is the demoralisation of 
public institutions which has brought down all nations. In the Sudan 
scheme the government ought to have taken precautions that those who 
are connected with reporting on the scheme, recommending it, or 
having anything to do with it, had no connection with the profits. The 
government has failed to see to that. 

“Why did the enterprising free enterprise suddenly collapse in its spirit 
of enterprise, and make it necessary for us to sit here since eleven 
o’clock? Why did not the government call on their favourite cry of 
‘private enterprise’? Did the government make an attempt in the easy 
style of governmental parliamentary attempts of asking their friends 
what their wishes and desires were in this matter? 

“Were they told by private enterprise that it saw a great future in it and 
a great risk, and that it would be clever to shift the risk on to the 
taxpayer who is generally a mug? That part requires to be explained by 
the government, not only explicitly, but even candidly, and having no 
regard to any secrecy between any negotiators and themselves. 

“This House has a right to know the nature of any consultations, and the 
persons with whom those consultations were carried on. If no 
consultations took place, then the supporters of the government are 
bound in duty to tell their constituents, now that the General Election is 
over and the votes have been secured, that they forgot to go to the 
private enterprisers. There must be something in it. 

“Neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the Under-Secretary of 
State for Foreign Affairs, so far as I am aware, is either by education or 
association a cotton expert. I do not believe that if a bale of Sudanese 
cotton were placed in the hands of either of those Gentlemen they would 
be able to say it was Sudanese cotton, or a piece of wool or anything else. 
I do not believe that either of them would be able to test the long staple 
or short staple article. 

“I do not, therefore, believe that the whole scheme originated in their 
heads. They told us there was a deputation, but that was last year. They 
are a new government, and they tell us that, by some divine inspiration, 


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not financial investigation, they came to the conclusion that long-staple 
cotton was grown in the Sudan. Never mind about the methods of 
growing it, unemployment in Lancashire is going to be less. But the 
government cannot make us accept such a doctrine unless they take us 
into their confidence and tell us the full psychological evolution. 

“We have heard of a deputation last year, and we see suddenly in this 
Session a Bill. We see two different and separate things in front of us. 
We have a very incomplete and undigested Bill about fine staple cotton 
in the Sudan, but without any information or any explanation. We heard 
of the deputation, but how the present occupants of office took up 
suddenly, in the midst of the difficulties of the Irish Constitution, this 
question of Sudanese cotton, and what experts they consulted in the 
matter I hardly know. 

“What promise did they get from the Manchester Chamber of 
Commerce and from the Plymouth private enterprises as to how much 
money they were prepared to put in? There are schemes put forward by 
the public, by private companies and corporations, and these companies 
and corporations came to Parliament to ask for sanction, they apply for 
guarantees, and for security of interest, but nothing of that sort seems to 
have happened in the case of Sudanese cotton. 

“We have not heard today that the private enterprisers of Britain are so 
dead that they are not able to stump up 3V2 millions. We have not heard 
yet that the right hon members who support the government, and who 
only last week were burning with zeal about the agriculturists and 
farmers, have undertaken to take some of the unemployed farmers of 
this country and send them to Sudan. 

“We have not heard from the government that the present 
unemployment in Lancashire has been due to a want of long staple 
cotton and the market for the yarn made out of the long staple cotton. 
We have heard from the government only a week ago, that stocks of 
cotton yarn made out of long staple are still lying in the warehouses of 
Manchester, Birkenhead and Liverpool. What do you want a further 
70,000 bales of long staple cotton for if you have not been able to spin 
that which you have and the cotton you did spin you are not willing to 
sell because you do not get your pound of flesh? 


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“How the government, as the impartial arbiter between the workers and 
the financiers, between the state and private enterprise, suddenly came 
to this conclusion will remain a miracle and a mystery unless they 
explain it more fully than they have done. It may be a miracle and 
mystery to their friends, but it shall not be so to their opponents. When 
we saw the mere whispers of this Bill in the air, when we heard the 
gentle hints given to us tonight by the Prime Minister that it was 
something about which the least said the soonest mended, and that we 
sit up after eleven, the whole cat jumped out of the bag at once. 

“Two issues spring out of the Sudanese cotton. Number one issue is that 
the government has been made to think about this scheme, and the 
second is that either they are unable to explain the details of the 
business or they thought it was a matter about which a long talk must 
not be permitted and that it might be got through in about half an hour. 
But as I have said, this House is entirely a new House. In this House you 
have not only human ears, but you have an intellectual microscope, and 
those little invisible germs— I do not mean the members of the 
opposition—” 

The Chairman: “The hon member must approach the question of this 
loan.” 

Mr Saklatvala: “The germs are now becoming visible in their whole 
alarming view to the public gaze. I submit that the whole idea 
underlying this Sudan scheme and to push this Bill through at this time, 
when we were least expecting to push it through, is to establish, what 
every government generally desires to do, a precedent and a pledge, so 
that throughout the coming Sessions this little nest will come up. I still 
submit that the scheme as propounded by the government is a scheme 
barren of the fundamental elements of justice. The scheme is based 
upon one fact, as if it were a truism, that it is going to produce 70,000 
bales of long staple cotton.” 

The Chairman: “It is not in order to repeat the same argument.” 

Mr Saklatvala: “I am submitting, Mr Hope, that from parallel examples 
of similar hopefulness of the growing of long staple cotton in other parts 
of the world, thousands of pounds have been wasted, and the cotton that 
has been ultimately grown has been neither short staple nor long 


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staple.” 

The House divided at 4am: ‘Ayes:’ 172, ‘Nos:’ 88 (a total of 260 members 
present out of 643 elected— such is the democratic process). 

On the 10th December, The Observer referred to his speech: 

“Mr Saklatvala, who is better acquainted with the grammar of the 
English tongue than with its slang, made a delightful perversion in his 3 
o’clock-in-the-morning speech. ‘The whole cat,’ he said, ‘jumped out of 
the bag at once.’” 

On the 13th December 1922, the Evening News carried the following item 
relating to a debate the previous day regarding the Army Supplementary 
Estimate, part of which was a government proposal to compensate the 
customers of a failed bank, all of whom were Army officers: 

‘MPs’ All Night Liveliness— Storms and Yawns in Relay Race 
Labour’s Plan 

MP Talks Of Fighting In The Streets’ 

There then appear photographs of D. Kirkwood and Saklatvala. 

“By deliberate obstruction tactics which a Labour MP called ‘the new 
game of Patience’ but which the Speaker designated ‘a very old game of 
Patience’, the Labour Party kept the House of Commons sitting until 7 
minutes to 7 today. 

“Lively scenes marked the sitting. ‘Scandal!’ and ‘Shame!’ were words in 
frequent use by Labour MPs whose declared intention was to ‘keep the 
House sitting continually until Friday night.’ 

“Mr Kirkwood of the Glasgow Labour MPs was particularly truculent. 
He advised Labour MPs to ‘show their contempt for the whole 
proceedings’ and talked of ‘fighting in the streets if necessary’. 

‘A Parsi Oration— Mr Saklatvala talks for an hour on ‘Private enterprise” 
“The Labour Party set their men to work in relays. The government, to 
counter this, resorted to the closure motion every now and again. At 
lam Mr Wheatley, who had been one of the most prominent 
obstructionists, moved the adjournment of the House. ‘I submit,’ he 
said, ‘that we have done a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and have 
registered a very practical protest against unemployment.’ 

“‘I, being a young man, require some sleep,’ drowsily remarked Mr 


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Buchanan, as he slowly rose to second the Motion. The House divided 
and the Motion for adjournment was defeated by 185 to 93. 

“The Labour Party then settled down again to their policy of 
obstruction. They kept the House waiting for an hour for a 
Supplementary Estimate of £100,000 required for grants to refugees 
from Ireland, and obstructed the report stage of a Supplementary Army 
Estimates of £340,000 for the purpose of compensating Officers and 
others who have suffered from the failure of McGriggor’s Bank. 

“Mr Ammon, who moved to reduce the sum by £100, complained that 
no compensation had been paid to working people who had deposited 
their savings in other banks. 

“Mr Saklatvala, the Parsi Labour member, seized on this opportunity to 
fire off a solid hour’s speech in derision of private enterprise...” 

Hansard recorded it thus: 

Mr Ammon moved the amendment and Mr Saklatvala rose to second it. 
Mr Saklatvala: “I beg to second the amendment. 

“I must also draw the attention of the House to the principles which are 
expected to be observed by the constitutional government or, in fact, by 
any body of men standing as trustees of public funds, and these 
principles seem to me to be quite openly violated in this Grant. In the 
first place, it is an extremely difficult position to charge a body of 
honourable men with any bad motives or bad intentions, but a certain 
place [the House of Lords] and the British House of Commons are both 
paved with good intentions. That does not help anyone. Our actions 
must be such that they not only remain above suspicion, but that they 
are in conformity with the principles that we desire to enforce upon the 
public as a governing House. 

“It has been pointed out that there have been other bank failures. The 
difference between the other bank failures and this bank failure appears 
to be, as far as one can judge from the Supplementary Estimate, that 
these are mostly members of the military Service. I put it that, because 
they are members of the Army Service, is the greater reason why the 
government should not, on sound principle, make this Grant, when in 
the case of private customers of private banks they have openly refused 


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to do so. 

“After all, is there not a very close connection between the civil 
government of the country and the Army that supports the government 
and keeps it in its position? This means that the civil government and 
the Army which form a close fraternal union in the state are willing to 
scratch each other’s backs, but they are not acting in the same manner 
when people lose their money who are not part and parcel of 
themselves. That is the obvious conclusion. 

“In the case of banks where the subscribers were a poorer class of the 
public, and who from a financial position were in need of greater 
assistance than the present set of investors, the government were 
drawing the distinction simply because it was the other arm of the 
government whom they considered it advisable to help, whereas they 
did not help the others. 

“There is another consideration. We have seen how emphatically on two 
previous occasions the government refused, not only all liability, but 
even their liability of the soundness of the principle to help the ruined 
shareholders and depositors of other banks, especially in the case of the 
Penny Bank. 

“I submit that the depositors had a claim at least, not only upon our 
sympathy, but upon the moral support of the state. Essentially that class 
of poor depositors were a class who were not highly educated, who were 
not supposed to understand all about banking, all about the soundness 
or otherwise of a bank, or of the status of the directors and persons who 
formed that bank. 

“Here the position is quite a different one. Generally speaking we may 
take it that the depositors who have suffered here are people who ought 
to have known better and had acted wrongly through perhaps the 
motive of making a higher profit by dealing with this bank than by 
investing their money elsewhere. They could not plead that ignorance 
and that inability to understand their business which the depositors of 
the Penny Bank could very well plead. 

“Another principle underlying this Grant appears to me to be almost a 
startling precedent. Personally, I do not mind that the members who are 
in a majority in this House should go to the constituencies a month ago 


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and proclaim the merits of private enterprise, and when they get into 
power, and when they find themselves and their friends in a very tight 
corner through the glories of private enterprise, that then they should 
rush to a scheme of Socialism for safety and emancipation. 

“Personally, I do not regret it, but, as a matter of principle, taking the 
government as it is formed, and taking the government as the people of 
this country desire it to be, I think it is exceedingly wrong for the 
government to trifle with the money of the public in this fashion. If you 
look at the nature of the Grant itself, what does it mean? It is paying a 
premium on gambling. It is rewarding those who take part in a swindle, 
because, after all, though we may sympathise—” 

Sir A. Holbrook: “On a point of Order. I think it unfair of the Hon. 
member to charge officers of the Army of being concerned in the 
swindle. That is what I object to.” 

(Hon. members: “No!”) 

Mr Saklatvala: “When the money disappears, it disappears either 
through gross negligence or through swindling directly by those who are 
in control of these moneys. There is not the slightest question in my 
mind whether one party directly swindles the depositors or another set 
of swindlers in the way of private enterprise. What I beg to point out 
and what I do point out, is that the government, by this action, are 
paying a premium on this system of swindling, because we must 
remember that in private enterprise, as constituted by law and carried 
on in an orderly manner, both parties are guilty either of negligence or 
of encouraging fraud, if not of practising it. 

“The depositors who deposit their money in a concern and do not make 
proper investigation as to the nature of the soundness of that concern, 
as to the business ability of the heads of that concern, who are careless 
of going to that concern from time to time to demand proper accounts 
and analyse the affairs of that concern, are, themselves, a danger to 
society and especially, I should say, a danger to society composed of 
private enterprisers. 

“It is a public duty, if it is not a personal duty, of every depositor in a 
money concern under a system of private enterprise, which always 
encourages sharp practice, it is the public duty of every investor in a 


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private enterprise to very carefully and analytically search into the 
conduct and condition of those persons responsible for conducting the 
industry; and the depositors of this particular concern, having failed in 
that personal duty as well as that public duty, have themselves been 
responsible for the very thing which has come to them and their 
deposits. 

“The government now comes and says, ‘Oh, never mind; we are at your 
back, because most of you are akin to us in your social and economic 
conditions, and because most of you are followers of our politics, we are 
friends, we are one and the same; we will get you out of the trouble,’ 
whereas, the self-same government and the self-same country once 
upon a time refused to bring out of trouble a much poorer class and a 
much poorer set of depositors when they lost their money. 

“But we are told, in a very indirect and vague manner, as if there is some 
thought of a liability hanging upon the government, that this bank was 
something like a double-faced Janus. It turned to the Army officers and 
said to them, ‘I am your agent; give me your money.’ Then it turned to 
the other side and became a speculative banker, and gambled or did 
what it pleased with the moneys of the depositors. The government, 
therefore, feel that, when they look at this particular concern from its 
banking face, they cannot easily forget its agency face. But that is the 
greater reason why the responsible government ought not to take this 
step of granting money. 

“I should suggest that they ought to take steps to save the depositors as 
a compensation for having brought them into the dangerous position, 
but they ought not to have done so from public funds. I appeal to you; 
supposing the government was in a position of a director of a concern, 
what would have been your position? The government here are 
distinctly negligent themselves, because they have appointed as Army 
agents, or sanctioned the working as Army agents, of a certain party 
who, as results have proved, were unworthy of being put in that 
position. 

“The government victimised the Army officers by inducing them to 
deposit their money with a concern with which otherwise, perhaps, they 
would not have entrusted so much. The government are helping 


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themselves. I use that word with due apology. The government are 
helping themselves with public funds in order to make up a loss to 
innocent people, the burden of which they feel upon their conscience as 
private human beings. 

“I submit very seriously to this House, what would be the position of the 
same Ministers if they found themselves placed in a condition like this; 
were they the directors of a concern. We have recently seen some 
scandalous affairs attaching to banking corporations where directors 
have by their negligence brought a loss upon innocent depositors or 
those who have had dealings with the concern. 

“The Courts of Justice, constitutionally, made demand that these 
directors put their hands into their own pockets and make up the loss. 
That is the moral law. But if the government sitting in Parliament says 
that they must make up the loss with the avowed enterprise of 
protecting them, it was setting a bad example and degrading the dignity 
of the House. The government appointed these people as Army agents, 
and their appointment was inducive to the depositors going to this 
particular concern and not only going to this particular concern—” 

(An Hon. member: “But coming back!”) 

“—but remaining very careless as to the modes of operation of this 
concern, thinking that as these were Army agents they would be safe. 
When it comes to the Ministers that the burden lies upon them, they 
ought to take some other means of raising this money, themselves or 
their friends, to defray these losses, but they ought not to touch money 
belonging to the public. I submit that we, as a Parliament and as a 
public, should be able to take Ministers to law and make them refund 
this money. 

“We have heard about private enterprise. This case more than any other 
distinctly proves that what we know to be private enterprise is certainly 
private, but is always devoid of the spirit of honest enterprise. Private 
enterprise appears to me to be that moneys and properties belonging to 
others are dealt with in privacy, the profits accruing therefrom being 
pocketed by those who call themselves private enterprisers, and when 
their recklessness or carelessness or inability, or even their dishonesty, 
brings the whole thing to ruin, the position of the present government is 


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that the taxpayer is called upon to reimburse the losers. If this scheme 
passes—” 

(An Hon. member: “It will!”) 

“—I wonder how many more banking concerns will be encouraged to 
‘mushroom’ up tomorrow in this country? If this grant be made to 
reimburse the losses of foolish and negligent depositors, giving back to 
them, a substantial assistance, after their remaining negligent, of their 
own ordinary interest, I wonder whether we are giving a lesson to the 
public to be more careful after a failure like this or are we giving a lesson 
to the public not to worry about carefulness, that the state is always at 
their back to make up their gambling losses, and that they can gamble 
away? 

“These are Army officers. Had they no Post Office Savings Banks or 
were they too superior and too rich and aristocratic to go to the savings 
banks alongside the poor people? If they were too rich and too 
aristocratic to do that, why did they come with their hats to the British 
taxpayer? Were these the patriotic gentlemen of Great Britain who were 
putting their placards and posters on the walls, published and printed 
from public money, ‘Put in your 15s 6d and it will be 25s 6d’? 

“Why do not they practise what they preach? Why did they come to this 
private bank for the deliberate purpose of speculating on a larger scale? 
All the bait you held out to them did not draw them even when that bait 
was steeped in the more attractive honey of patriotism. No appeal seems 
to have gone forth to these depositors at the time they were depositing 
their money that there were other channels open to them. 

“What does that indicate? It distinctly indicates that they had some 
spare money about which they were not really very much concerned and 
with which they thought it possible to take a gamble in a so-called bank. 
It points to the fact that, while the Army itself is underpaid, the Army 
officers are paid more than was needed for their daily life, and that 
accounts for the large deposits in a certain concern in which they had no 
business to deposit any money. 

“Secondly, it shows that the Army officers being well provided for with 
more liberal compensation than the old age pensioner gets in this 
country, were very unconcerned as to what really happened to their 


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savings, and they wanted laterally to gamble with it rather than save it 
in a state Savings Bank. The whole question is that there is no real 
financial need. This time it is not the failure of the needy and the poor 
ones; it is not the failure of those who would be dragged to the gutter 
absolutely in their old age by having lost these fortunes. This is money 
belonging to a class of officer who evidently, after living fairly well— 

(An Hon. member: “How do you know?”) 

“—From the very fact that the state issued this money. They got it 
exactly from the same government that starved the Tommy. They got 
this money after living on a much higher scale than the ordinary soldier 
and the ordinary average working-class man of this country, and they 
were so backed up by a system of pensions and so confident about it that 
they did not consider it necessary to take the ordinary care and 
precaution about saving this money for their old age. No one likes to 
lose money. Even we have seen millionaires, if they lost a few 
thousands, beginning to wail, and if they had to pay Excess Profits they 
would cut off some of their benefactions. The richer they are the more 
unwilling they are to part with it.” 

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. James Hope): “The hon member is getting 
very wide from the point now.” 

Mr. Saklatvala: “I submit that, while they may feel the loss of their 
money, they cannot be classed with the people rendered destitute by the 
other failures, people who have now got to pass a hopeless future in 
their old age without any means of support or livelihood, as was the case 
with the depositors in the Penny Bank. There is no particular reason, 
from a financial point of view, for the state to come with public funds 
and help them to the extent of £340,000 at a time when the government 
have no money for the men whose women and children have anxious 
moments to find a piece of bread for next morning. 

“From a moral point of view, the government have not made out any 
particular case for this grant. Men are responsible for the way in which 
they invested their money in a concern conducted in a very indifferent 
manner, and in which no cautious man would have kept his money for 
any considerable time. Considering the moral responsibility of the 
government, that it was their own Army agents who had done it, I think 


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that the responsible persons in the government themselves, with the 
assistance, if they are too poor, of their rich friends, should have a 
donation fund, instead of paying compensation from the public funds 
because of their own negligence in dealing with a party that was not 
worthy to be dealt with. 

“These are considerations which can go directly against making such a 
grant from public funds. We are told there are no precedents for such a 
grant being made. The government are not only making the public pay 
£340,000, but they are not making the public learn a costly lesson. 
Instead, they are, by making this grant, setting a bad example of 
appointing wrong Army agents for depositors to go ahead and gamble as 
they please, giving a premium to bankers who want to play fast and 
loose with the depositors’ money, knowing there will be no public howl 
about it, but that a generous government will come forward and help 
them with public money. 

“They are also giving a bad example to the Army, which is maintained 
by the state, by showing by this grant that Army officers are not 
required to be cautious and thrifty. They are not of the people. They are 
not to go to the state arrangements for saving money in the Post Office 
banks. They are permitted to gamble. If they make a profit, the profit 
will be theirs. If they make a loss, the loss will be borne by the taxpayer.” 
In reply to this peroration, the Financial Secretary to the War Office, Lieut. 
Col. Jackson said: 

“I am sure the hon Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Reduction 
will not think me discourteous if I do not reply to their arguments at this 
particular moment. They will be replied to later in the debate and I am 
doubtful if I can reply to all the remarks of the last speaker. I am not 
sure I could do it in the sunshine and I am quite certain I cannot do it at 
this late hour...” 

Thus ended Saklatvala’s first three weeks in the House of Commons; he had 
certainly already made his mark as a forceful and entertaining contributor to 
parliamentary debates. 


200 



CHAPTER 10 


Speaking Against Imperialism 

Unemployment Sunday. Speech during parliamentary 
debate on the ‘ Indian states— Protection Against Disaffection 
Act, 1922’. The campaign against substandard housing in 

London. 


Much to the indignation of the Labour Party and the working class movement 
generally, the parliamentary Christmas recess was not to end until 13th 
February 1923. Saklatvala seconded a parliamentary resolution protesting 
against the prorogation, stating that by extending the parliamentary holiday to 
13th February the government showed its indifference to the suffering of the 
long-term unemployed 

The TUC organised a national day of demonstration that became known as 
Unemployment Sunday. A huge crowd gathered in Trafalgar Square on 7th 
January, where they were addressed by, among others, George Lansbury, 
Saklatvala and Wal Hannington. 



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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Photo: Saklatvala speaking in Trafalgar Square; George Lansbury 

faces the camera 

It was not until well after the Christmas recess that Saklatvala finally got the 
chance to address the House on the subject nearest to his heart, namely, the 
iniquities of imperialism as practiced in India. It was on the 27th February 
1923, that under Orders of the Day, the House had before it the ‘Indian states 
(Protection Against Disaffection) Act, 1922’. Colonel Wedgewood (Labour) 
moved that, ‘A humble Address be presented to His Majesty that he withhold 
his assent to the Indian states (Protection Against Disaffection) Act 1922.’ 

This Act was to make it impossible for subjects of the Indian princely states, 
not under British rule, or Indian citizens in British India, to publicise in India 
or the Indian press, the malpractices of the Indian princes against their 
subjects. While several of the Princes were reasonably benevolent, many of 
them were despotic and cruel, and Colonel Wedgewood made an impassioned 
and detailed speech against Great Britain affording their protection to these 
despotic and tyrannical regimes. 

Mr Snell (Labour), in seconding the Motion, referred to the Act as a measure 
which “very seriously limits human freedom.” The Act was to impose a penalty 
of five years imprisonment, with or without a fine, upon anyone who may 
“write, edit, print or publish, any book, newspaper or document calculated to 
bring into hatred or contempt or to excite disaffection against Princes or 
Chiefs of a state in India...” 

Snell pointed out to the House that the punishment was to be administered 
not because any words published had actually caused riot or sabotage or 
revolution; “a person may be imprisoned... on the ground that the speculative 
mind of an official may think that his words may have caused disaffection.” 
Later in his long and passionate speech he reminded the House that, by the 
famous Proclamation issued in 1858, which was the Magna Carta of Indian 
liberties, we undertook to concede the same rights and principles to the Indian 
people as to British subjects born elsewhere. This proposed Act negated that 
ideal. 

Saklatvala took up the argument, at first with quiet sarcasm. He said: 

“I suppose I shall be pardoned for saying that I cannot tear myself away 
from the feeling that we are conducting a mock debate, with a forgone 
conclusion. I want all my colleagues here tonight to remember that for 


202 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


these few hours, they are not the same Parliament which they imagine 
they are, and which they were up till 4 o’clock this afternoon. 

“Up till 4 o’clock this was a Parliament that believed in the 
representation of the people, in the supreme right, above the sovereign 
right, of the elected representatives of the people. After 4 o’clock, 
Parliament has reversed its engines, and it believes in a dictatorship 
over a foreign people, through a man whom they have sent out, in whose 
selection 300 million of people had no voice whatever. [He was, of 
course, alluding to the Viceroy, at whose personal instigation the Act 
was introduced.] 

“The Parliament which here wants to give speed and growth to 
democratic institutions, desires to extend the franchise, and pretends to 
give further and further rights to the enfranchised people, is at the same 
time spreading itself thousands and thousands of more miles further 
away in other parts of the world, where this very Parliament demands 
that the people of those countries shall have no voice in the 
administration and governing of their affairs. This Parliament, as it now 
considers the Bill, is not the advocate of the right of representation of 
the people, but of the dictatorship of somebody outside, to other peoples 
of the world. And this is an entirely different Assembly. 

“There is a danger in this sort of debate having, perhaps, a misguiding 
effect. By our very effort to save the government from rushing into a 
mad act, we are liable here on the Labour Benches to be surreptitiously 
drawn into an Imperial policy, as if we wanted Imperialism to be run 
more correctly than they desire, but though there is such a danger, there 
is no reality in it. The Labour Party is asking the government not to do 
something ridiculous and silly, which would betray their own aims and 
efforts, but by so doing it does not give a pledge to the other side that 
the Labour Party desires a more correct form of Imperialism to be 
observed than the government desire. 

“There is also a danger, on the part of our Indian friends that, by this 
kind of struggle, by this kind of tug-of-war with the imperialist, foreign, 
dominating power, they are tacitly accepting the right of this country to 
send a Viceroy at all. That is not the position from the Indian point of 
view, and we do not want to be snared into the false Imperialism which 


203 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


after the War, the whole world, barring the Liberals and Conservatives 
of Great Britain, have cast to the winds. 

“I am glad that on this occasion our friends, the Liberal Party, are 
openly associating themselves with the government so far as we have 
heard their speakers. We do not wish to have, on such imperialist 
questions, the idea that there are three groups in this House. There are 
only two groups. The one group is the group of Conservatives and 
Liberals combined that believes in the supreme right of this country and 
this Parliament in exploiting and dominating over the countries that do 
not belong to them and that never sent men forth here to disturb them 
at all; and opposed to them there is only one group that does not believe 
in such imperialist domination, but believes in the co-operation of all 
nations on terms of equality and equal rights. 

“The real difficulty with regard to the Viceroy’s position arises from the 
system which he has got to maintain. After the War, the whole of the 
world, civilised as far as you may call yourselves, or uncivilised as far as 
others may think, has come to realise that political Imperialism is mere 
barbarity, however nicely you put it. The world has also come to realise 
that no country and no nation can now live at peace and in prosperity by 
crushing other nations economically. 

“If there was no Viceroy in India to represent this political domination 
of Britain, but if there were dozens of Britishers to represent the 
fraternal co-operation of the working classes of Britain, this Bill and this 
question and this debate would not have arisen at all, and the result 
would have been far better than that at which the government or the 
present Viceroy may be aiming. 

“I myself realise the position. You send out a Viceroy, and you tell 300 
millions of people that they have got nothing to do with selecting the 
head of their administration. You have only got to send out a certain 
person for a number of years to run over the people— not to consult 
them, not to serve— to govern them in the interests that are not known 
to the people as the peoples’ interests. I quite imagine that Viceroy 
should more than once run away with the idea that he can only be doing 
his duty to the Mother Country whenever he defies the wishes of the 
people in whose midst he has got to live his life. That being the position, 


204 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the Viceroy runs to this House and asks that we should back him up, 
and in order to preserve Imperialism as such, you are going to back him 
up. 

COMMUNISTS IN j 
THE OPEN. 


DEMONSTRATIONS BT 
UNEMPLOYED. 


A “RED FLAG” EFFORT. 

Demonstrations c rgunizcd by tixi 
official Labour bodies in conjunction with 
the “ National Unemployed Workers’ 
Committee Movement '* vrere held in 
many parts of tbe country yesterday. At 
each a resolution was submitted demand- 
ing tbe immediate meeting of Parliament 
to deal with the unemployment problem. 
The opportunity was seized by the Com- 
ntmists to malm a bold display in 
speeches and banners. 

Many tliousands were attracted to the 
London demonstration in Traf&lgar- 
square. None of the banners was brighter 
or newer than those borne by the various 
branches of tho Communist Party, wiio 
had apparently obeyed in full fort* the 
official instruction to identify themselves 
actively with the proceedings. It was a 
Communist banner, reared against the 
bronze relief depicting tbe Battle of 
Copenhagen, that formed the central 
feature of the background at the main 
platform on tbe Nelson Column. The 
” Red Flag ” was frequently sung, both 
on tbe march and in the square. On the 
instrumental side the " Marseillais* ” and 
the Sian Fein “ Soldier's Song ” mingled 
with the pibroch*. ’Under tbe banner of 
the Stepney Young Communist League a 
group of foreign-looking youths song 
Communist nursery rhymes. 

Tbe hunger-niarchvrB aid not parade scpur- 
ot*lr, but were scattered la smuU oontlngimtu 
among the vurlous prottsaiotn. Among tboee 
t’.kins pert, according to tbe banners. wete 
men from Liverpool, Newcastle, Shi'ITleld, 
Edinburgh, Gliqns, and Greenock. Atr. 
Georg* Lxaebury, AI.P.. beaded on* o( tbe 
East-end processions, and anon; other 
numbers of Pad lament who were picsant on 
the plinth were Mr. Bowerman. Mr. .March. 
Mr. MelCnWt, and Mr. Saklatvaki. 


Clipping: The Times, 8th January 1923 
“May I ask this House to consider the effects upon the sections of the 
Indian population? The new Act dared to enfranchise 6% of the 
population of India, most of whom laughed at the artificial right of 
franchise given to them by a foreign domination, and 85% of those who 
were given that franchise scorned it, and said they would have nothing 


205 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


to do with it. As the balance, there is just 1 % of the population of India 
that is hanging on to the Viceroy and his Councils and is keeping faith in 
British administration as it now stands. It is 1%, but I know the men and 
the women that are in it. They are worthy of everybody’s consideration, 
but above all, I want the government to realise that here is this 1% 
volunteering to keep faith in British institutions, volunteering to come 
forward to back up the Viceroy and British Councils and the British 
mode of administering the country—” 

Mr Speaker: “This is not the occasion on which to review the 
government of India Act or the present system of government in India. 
The only question that arises here is whether the right judgement has 
been exercised within the law now existing in India.” 

Mr Saklatvala: “I am going to make the point, Mr Speaker, of drawing 
the attention of the government to the people whom they are hurting by 
rejecting the Motion of the Labour Party. The people who are now 
protesting against the Viceroy’s action, and the people whom the Labour 
Party is now trying to back up, are the people who have dared to become 
the laughing stock of 99% of their own countrymen in their effort to 
stand by the British institutions, and the Viceroy and the government 
here are now throwing them over. 

“They are telling the people that there is no reality in the Councils, that 
they have believed in something that was a sham, and they are further 
telling these people, who the other day sent in a petition, which was duly 
sent forward, asking this House to consider their position, that this 
House does not exist in reality as a protector of representational popular 
freedom. This will be the effect if the government persist in their policy 
and do not take the warning that is offered them from the Labour 
Benches. 

“The action of the Viceroy has another side, which I will ask the 
government to bear in mind, and that is this. The people of India do not 
believe that the Viceroy is taking this measure for the protection of the 
Princes as such. The people of India know that, up to the end of the 
reign by Lord Curzon, the Princes of India were driven by a whip by the 
Viceroys of India, and it was the Indian papers and the Indian public 
organisations that were always protecting them and protesting against 


206 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the action of the government. 

“The people of India have now begun to believe— they may be right or 
they may be wrong— that the government are now adopting a policy of 
quietly influencing and even, where possible, of indirectly coercing, the 
Indian Princes to maintain a very reactionary policy in the Native states, 
and that the government of India are now afraid of their secret and 
silent influence at the back of what is known in India as Imperialism, 
which is being exposed by honest criticism in the Indian press, on which 
account they are out to pass this Act over the heads of the people of 
India. 

“It was said by members on both sides in the debate that there is a 
pledge. Who gave the pledge? The Viceroy, whom the people have never 
elected. He gave the pledge, and he wants the representatives of the 
people to stand by his pledge. That is the unnatural position of 
Imperialism. There is no constitutional position in such a pledge, and 
there is no obligation on the people of India to maintain such a pledge. 
They are not parties to it... I should be extremely pleased if the 
government rejected the Motion of the Labour Party, because that is the 
only way by which this last lingering vestige of Imperialism in this world 
will go to its grave. 

“If by any chance you began to show common sense, and if by any 
chance you began to retrace your steps, it would be somewhat 
calamitous, because it would still enable Imperialism to continue to 
exist, and I am quite ready to take sides with the Motion of the Labour 
Party, because it is quite obvious that the Labour Party can never 
advocate the principle that one individual should have autocratic power 
over the representatives of the people. At the same time, I hope that, 
after the action of the government in defying the Labour Party, the 
Labour Party will begin now to discriminate between the existence and 
non-existence of Imperialism. 


207 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Mr. SAKLATVALA (Battersea, N., Lab.) 

^ Wt that tli» House were r-mductii.r 
a mock debate to a foregone cooHiibIow. In 
Uii8 country they lavoirrad the growth of 
democratic hiatiUitloiia, but in oUier port* 
Of the worid they demanded that the people 
abouJd bar* no voice In the admiaiatroMon 
of th^r nffiurfc He would bo Mtrandy 
pleased « the Government rejected the motion 
of tbe Labour Patty, because that wt a tbe 
way In winch the last lingering vestige 
Imperialism wooH go to it* crave. (Ubour 
clients and Ministerial laughter.) As to the 
Indian Cinl Hnrrice. it waa not Indian, it 
won not civil, and it waa a domination and 
a usurpation. ( laughter.) Barring these three 
great defacta, the Service waa aO right. <Re- 
nawed laughter.) 11 the Government wished 
to destroy Brltirh Imperialism kt than go 
on with Lbfdr aatocraUe programme. If they 
wished to gfve an crUodcd lease of tile to 
British Imperialism they must tell tbe Viceroy 
to retrace his steps, to climb down, and to 
End some other cotnouflago with which to 
rule the Indian people. (Laughter.) 


Clipping: The Times, 28th February 1923 
“Before concluding, I may just add one word as to the Indian Civil 
Service, about which there was some argument on account of some 
remarks offered by the Hon. and Gallant member who moved the 
Labour Motion [Col. Wedgewood]. I do not believe that it is the 
intention to attack personalities or members with regard to this 
particular Bill. 

“What we do feel is that it is not so much the individual desire of the 
Viceroy to push it through over the heads of quite a new Assembly, as it 
is the traditional practice of the Indian Civil Service, and not because 
the individuals who form the Indian Civil Service are themselves 
particularly selected wrong men. That is not the idea, but that the whole 
system and machinery has got its own faults. The Indian Civil Service is 
not Indian. It has no reputation for being civil, and it is a domination 
and a usurpation. Barring these three great defects, they are all right. 

“I, therefore, say to the government that if they wish to destroy 
Imperialism, as they should, they should go on with their autocratic 
programme. If they wish to give an extended lease to British 
Imperialism, they may tell the Viceroy to retrace his steps, to climb 
down and find some other camouflage to rule the people of India.” 

Mr Hope Simpson then rose and said he found himself at some disadvantage 
after the wonderful rhetorical effort to which the House had just listened with 
such enjoyment. 

On the following day, Saklatvala turned his attention to more mundane 
matters nearer home, in his own constituency of North Battersea, and he 


208 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


raised the question of sub-standard housing there. It is a speech that could 
well be echoed today, when housing is still an acute and agonising problem for 
thousands of working people in our great cities; when, in spite of the efforts 
through the years of so many sincere pleaders and champions for their cause, 
thousands of families are still without homes and shelter and many thousands 
more are living in derelict and unhealthy slums. 

Well, here is a little effort my father made in 1923, sixty-five years ago as I 
write. We have found money for a world war, for armaments and nuclear 
weapons, for the upkeep of an elaborate and oh-so-secret-service, for 
propaganda and intervention throughout the world, for a mini-war in the 
Falklands, but still we cannot find the money to build enough homes for our 
people to live in. Human hearts must be adamantine hard. 

Saklatvala said: 

“I wish to bring to the notice of the substitute for the Minister of Health 
an urgent matter concerning the housing problem. I am specially 
requested by the Borough Council of Battersea to urge upon the 
Minister to give it sympathetic consideration and not to set it aside on 
grounds of Party feeling. It is not only a question of the shortage of 
houses and the delay in erecting new houses, but of a most acute 
problem, which has arisen of rendering existing houses useless by 
landlords sheltering behind certain imperfections in the law. 

“In accordance with Section 28 of the Housing and Town Planning Act, 
1918, while the Municipal authorities are empowered to put in repair 
certain houses, they are left in a position of great doubt as to ultimately 
recovering the sums of money spent on such repairs. 

“The Battersea Council is faced with the fact that, having repaired 
certain houses when the cost was at its highest, they now stand no 
chance of recovering the sum from the landlords, and have had to come 
to terms for spreading the repayments over 15 years. Before they can 
recover the public funds which have been spent on taking care of private 
enterprise in Battersea, they will have to wait for 15 years. Further, on 
investigation it has been found that these landlords are not aliens but 
Britishers, and one happens to be a Scotsman. 

“The most serious point is that Section 28 does not give any powers to 
the Borough Council over the freeholders, and the leaseholders are 


209 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


merely undergoing a process of transferring houses from the name of 
one leaseholder to that of another, and in the meanwhile the tenants are 
dwelling in houses which are unfit for use as dwelling places. The 
municipal authorities have been compelled in Stanford Street, to take in 
charge about 25 houses, all in one street, and they cordially invite 
representative of the Ministry to visit these houses which are 
specimens... 

“I am glad to say that all the inhabitants are on rent strike because they 
know that morally the landlords do not deserve the rents. The trouble is 
that the corporation have to put these houses into repair, and they do 
not know how they will recover the expenses. 


1 

NEW COMMUNIST 
METHODS. 

THE M SPORTS ” MOVEMENT 

A Communist offetsai v., to inaugurate the 
reorganuatioo tli* potty hoc undergooe at tho 
bidding of Its Continental Isadora, wilt bo 
opened next weak in U»e principal industrial 
oentraa. Tbe inner council of nine, wbo direct 
Uie movement in (ireat Britain Iran their 
headquarters in Covcnt Gordon, aiw spreading 
themselves osar tbe country, nod tliey will 
form the principal attraction at the meetings 
arranged to bo hold at Barrow, Birmingham. 
Brighten, Cardiff. Liverpool, and other places. 

It is latnrMtinc to note that Ur. Sallatvalo, 
the Parses member of Parliament for one of 
the Battersea divisions, is prominently osao- 
1 dated with the campaign. Mr. Saklntvala'S 
pobtlca cam* under review by tlio Parlia- 
mentary Labour Party test Snafon, and it 
would now appear that bo has decided to re- 
inforce Mr. a ow bold's party of one in the 
House of Commons. l.'nder threat, of being 
reported individually to the inner council of 
nine, all members are called upon to Join In 
selling Communist *' literature." carrying 
banner*, speaking, or collecting money. 

- 


Clipping: The Times, 8th January 1923 
“The request of the Battersea Council is that the Minister should see his 
way to make an alteration in the Section as quickly as possible, with 
retrospective power, if possible, to arrange that instead of the landlord 
and leaseholder being sued for recovery of the expenses incurred, other 
arrangements shall be made. 

“If they could permit the Corporation to go to the County Court Judge or 
the Magistrate before the repairs are effected, giving the landlord a 
reasonable time as adjudicated by the Court, and if he failed to effect 
such repairs within that time, if the Corporation could be allowed to 


210 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


take over charge of the house at its depreciated value, that would be the 
only way in which a solution could be found. We shall be obliged for an 
assurance from the Minister that such an alteration can be made 
speedily.” 

The parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, Colonel Leslie Wilson apologised 
for the absence of Sir W. Joynson-Hicks. Efforts had been made to find him in 
order that he should be present to answer the Hon. member, but he had left 
the House. Colonel Wilson promised to convey Mr Saklatvala’s remarks to the 
Minister and see that he takes all that has been said into consideration. The 
Session came to an end at 26 minutes after 11 o’clock. 

A fortnight after this plea in the House, Saklatvala addressed a mass meeting 
convened by the Labour Party in Westminster on the subject of poor housing 
in that borough. 


211 



CHAPTER 11 


The Deportations to Ireland 

The arrest in the UK of 112 people of Irish origin and their 
deportation to Dublin; widely protested and subsequently 

declared illegal. 


On the 12th March 1923, a small paragraph appeared discreetly on page 12 of 
The Times under headlines, ‘Irish Arrests in England— too Men and Women 
Expelled— Free State Charges’. 


IRISH ARRESTS IN 
. . ENGLAND. .... 

100 MEN AND WOMEN 
EXPELLED. 


FREE STATE FRA ROES, 

Tire Press AssodaWam tits* mere 
UtiMi one hundred Irishmen und Intfc 
arrvriari to tSftomu parts ol 
tucUrd no NaHiHIaj' night mid 
«Uy or! thnftfM totmtolairfl hjr it* liuti 
Free Store, The pttwmeto token to 
I.ivwtp*K>l »ml transferred to ■ British 
cHthrr, whlrh kit ywiwduy, fl h 
MieVed. fo# Ireland. 

Tto> mvnker oreretod in Lcmdrei aw* 
bn O frni thirty anil forty, tn Livarjnnl 
om twentvr in ItaaclKatar atomt. <1 
durna, and 'in n.rtntogj.ahi amt ftoolifi 
hati a dntL-n. Rone «wre utrnted to 
E««* Coma towns. 

H 10 uperetionB slurj cxtmded to Nrot- 
IiikJ. A rhmdrw trWgnun an ' — A 
trAcWt in a Roman (Nuhnlk school in 
Dundee «n arrrered by dcreottvrs on 
SuUIrttoy night under a rkport aUon older. 

He *«» com-pyad by taai-cub lo Ola^fen, 

iTlume*, it is undatatnud. tot If to Ire fc-tit 
tnth rthen to 1 ret find. 

V tJttor inift v»i wet lx (ound aa peace 
j i iiid m 


Clipping: The Times, 12th March 1923 

On the same day, the Manchester Guardian reported prominently on the 
arrests and published the following official statement by the Liverpool police: 
“In accordance with a concerted plan and acting on the instructions of the 
Home Office, numerous arrests of Irish men and women resident in foreign 
towns were carried out during the course of Saturday night...” 


212 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


It was the Daily Herald that really gave the news its full impact and 
importance in the centre of the front page, under a banner headline, 
‘Sensational Round-Up of Irishmen.’ 

The report continued: 

“Over too arrests in night raids. Prisoners taken from many parts of 
Britain and deported to Ireland in HMS Castor. London houses 
ransacked: member of Dail taken. The arrests had been carried out in 
London, Liverpool, Manchester. Birmingham and Bootle as well as 
Glasgow and other Scottish towns. 

“The arrests were carried out on an order signed by Mr Bridgeman, the 
Home Secretary. This document quoted the Defence of the Realm Act 
and the Restoration of Order Act, Ireland, as the authorities for the 
action taken. Some of the men arrested in London were told by the 
police and detectives who made the arrests that if they would assure the 
Free State Authorities that they were not performing Republican work, 
they would be speedily released. The arrests were on charges formulated 
by the Irish Free State. 

“All the persons were brought to Liverpool and transferred to the British 
cruiser, Castor, which sailed yesterday afternoon (Sunday 11th March), 
it is believed, for Ireland. The majority of the arrested persons were 
men. All the women taken are described as of good address, one being, 
it is stated, a doctor... each were ordered to take with them a pillow, a 
mg and a spare suit...” 

The next day, the headlines ran: ‘Commons Denounce Irish Deportations. 
Home Secretary Indicted’: 

“no prisoners including 19 women arrived in Dublin on board HMS 
Castor, accompanied by destroyers Victorious and Wolfhound. They 
were kept below deck until 2 o’clock yesterday morning (12th March) 
when, with every precaution taken, they were removed on motor chars- 
a-bancs to Mountjoy Prison. The chars-a-bancs were escorted by 
armoured cars, and strong patrols of National Troops held the streets 
until the prisoners were safely lodged.” 

A three-hour-long discussion in the Commons received wide press coverage. 
The matter was debated under ‘Arrests In Great Britain— Statement By The 


213 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Home Secretary’ on 12th March 1923, excerpted here: 

Mr Ramsay Macdonald (Labour and Leader of HM Opposition) (by 
private notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department 
whether he can make a statement with regard to the reported arrest and 
immediate deportation to Ireland of a number of people residing in this 
country; the reason for the action taken, and the authority under which 
he acted? 

Mr Bridgeman: (Secretary of State for Home Department): I will, if I 
may, answer this question, and another question of which Private 
Notice has also been given to me by the Hon. member for Silvertown 
(Mr Jones). 

Mr J. Jones (Liberal): On a point of Order. I want to know if my 
question is exactly the same as put by my Hon. Friend the member for 
Aberavon. With due respect, I have raised a different issue altogether. 

Mr Speaker: The Hon. member will have his opportunity if he raises a 
specific question after the Hon. gentleman has answered the general 
one. 

Mr Bridgeman: I was proposing to read out the question of the Hon. 
member for Silvertown, and I thought my general answer would cover 
the points of both questions. The question of the Hon. member is as 
follows: ‘To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is 
aware that a school teacher, born in England, named Frank Fitzgerald, 
of Forest Gate, was arrested about 12am on Sunday morning, 11th 
March and has since been deported to Ireland; if he will state the reason 
for this arrest and if there is any legal redress for a citizen of this 
country who has been arrested and deported in this way.’ 

Certain arrests, one of which is referred to by the Hon. member for 
Silvertown in his question, were carried out during the weekend in 
pursuance of orders made by me and the Secretary of Scotland, 
respectively, directing that a number of persons shall be interned under 
No. 14B of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Regulations. There has 
lately been a progressive increase in Irish Republican activity here. We 
are in possession of material clearly indicating the existence of a quasi- 
military organisation controlled by a person calling himself ‘Officer 
Commanding, Britain’— 


214 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Mr Lansbury (Labour): Galloper Smith! [referring ironically to a 
Conservative politician well-known for his opposition to Irish 
nationalism] 

Mr Bridgeman: —and of an intention on the part of that organisation 
primarily to do everything in their power, in co-operation with the 
irregulars in Ireland, to overthrow the Free State government, and also 
in certain contingencies to resort to acts of violence in this country in 
pursuance of their unlawful aims. It was clearly the duty of His 
Majesty’s government being in possession of such information, to take 
action, and we have for some time past been in consultation with the 
Free State government as to the best method of dealing with the 
situation. The arrests have been made at the request of that 
government. 

The persons arrested are all of Irish origin and are either members of 
the Organisation referred to, or have supported it directly or indirectly. 
They will be held in custody by the Free State government in their own 
country. This seemed, on the whole, after full consideration, the 
simplest and most effective method of dealing with these persons who, 
claiming to be Irish, and to be acting in the interests of Ireland, so 
grossly abused the hospitality of this country. 

Captain Hay (Labour): That is begging the question. 

Mr Bridgeman: If hon members express the wish to be more fully 
informed as to the organisation against which this action has been 
directed, I shall be pleased, as soon as possible, to place in the Library 
illustrative specimens of documents which have lately fallen into our 
hands. The persons arrested have all been informed that they may, if 
they wish, make representations to an Advisory Committee, which will 
be presided over by someone who holds, or has held, high judicial office. 
Mr Macdonald: Arising out of the answer, first of all on the point of 
legality. Does the government hold that the Restoration of Order, 
Ireland, Regulations run in this country? And, secondly, with reference 
to the Committee, is that Committee sitting in this country, and are the 
deported persons to be allowed to return to this country during the 
enquiry into their deportation? 

Mr Jones: Before the rt hon gentleman answers, I should like to ask if a 


215 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


reply is going to be given to my question. My question relates to a 
British subject, born in England, and if such are going to be deported 
without appeal to the ordinary Courts of Law? If this man has been 
guilty of an offence against the state, I am not here to defend him, but I 
am asking are not the ordinary Courts in this country available? 
(Interruption.) I am going to go on if I am chucked out. 

Mr Bridgeman: With regard to the last question, I was told that this 
person was engaged in this organisation. 

Mr Jones: He was not. He is a British subject. Why do you not answer 
my question? 

Hon. Members: It has been answered. 

Mr Speaker: The Hon. member must really listen to the answer. 

Clearly he had not been answered, since he wanted to know why a 
British citizen was not being tried in a British court of law after being 
duly charged with whatever crime of which he might be suspected. 

Mr Bridgeman: I have already said that this man has the power of 
appearing before an Advisory Committee. 

Mr Jones: He is an English subject and he has a right to appear before 
the courts of this country... This man is an English subject, and he has 
not the right to be deported without trial... Why should they be deported 
like this? 

Mr Lansbury: Does the Home Secretary claim the right to deport a 
British subject, born in this country, to another country, without trial 
either by judge or jury? 

Mr Bridgeman: I have already answered that question. My answer is 
that I have taken legal advice on this matter, and I am assured that I am 
acting within my rights. With regard to the question as to where the 
location of the Advisory Committee would be, it would be in this 
country. 

Mr Saklatvala: I desire to ask if in the case of Frank Fitzgerald of 3 Cave 
Street, the Rt. hon gentleman has not made a mistake and mixed him up 
with another Irishman of the same name, and whether he has deported 
entirely the wrong person? Is the Rt. hon gentleman aware that this 


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particular Frank Fitzgerald is not the Frank Fitzgerald concerned in a 
machine-gun case recently, and is he aware that this particular Frank 
Fitzgerald has never functioned in any of the Irish organisations after 
the establishment of the Free State in Southern Ireland, and is he aware 
that he has actually resigned his membership of the Self-determination 
League and has he not deported the wrong man? 

Viscount Curzon: Is this the man who was arrested in the National 
Liberal Club? 

Mr Jones: He was arrested in his own house. 

The debate was resumed on 14th March 1922. 

Mr Saklatvala asked the Prime Minister if he will place upon the Table 
of the House immediately a full report of written as well as verbal 
communications that passed between the Irish Free State Authorities 
and the Prime Minister or any other members of the British Cabinet 
which caused the Home Secretary to issue orders for the arrest and 
deportation of numerous citizens to be tried by ordinary and 
extraordinary Courts in the Irish Free State? 

Mr Bridgeman: I have been asked to reply. No, Sir. I can add nothing to 
the statement made by the Attorney-General and myself on Monday 
last. As I explained then, nothing more than internment is proposed at 
the present time. 

Mr Saklatvala: Is it within the constitutional power of the government of 
this country to prevent the Irish Free State from taking any measures 
against persons who are now deported and interned there? 

Mr Bridgeman: I should like to see the question on the Paper before I 
answer it. 

Mr Maxton: (by private notice) asked the under-secretary to the Scottish 
Board of Health if he is aware that James Hicky, Gallowgate, Glasgow, 
one of the men deported to Ireland on the night of Saturday 10th March, 
is a native of Glasgow, the son of a Glasgow policeman, and that a 
prominent local clergyman is prepared to testify to his complete 
innocence of any connection with Irish rebel organisations, and if in 
view of these facts he will take immediate steps to restore this man to 


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his home? 

Capt. Elliot (Parliamentary Under-Sec. for Health, Scotland): Each of 
the persons interned was made aware, by the terms of the Internment 
Order, a copy of which was served on him, that it is open to him to 
submit representations against the Order. Any such representations will 
be referred to the Advisory Committee to be presided over by Lord 
Trevethin. Representations from any other persons who may have 
personal knowledge of a particular case will be considered. 

It should be remembered that no Committee had as yet been set up, so that 
anyone wrongfully interned had to wait in prison until such time as there was 
a committee to hear their case! 

Mr Saklatvala (by private notice) asked the Prime Minister if he will 
inform the House what arrangements, if any, have been made, either by 
His Majesty’s government or the Free State government, to give the 
persons deported from this country to Ireland, there to be interned, an 
opportunity of communicating with their friends in order that legal 
advice may be provided for those of the prisoners who desire it; and 
further, will the British government take steps to ensure that the legal 
advisers of the deportees proceeding to Ireland from England shall be 
allowed freedom of access to them for the purpose of advising as to an 
appeal to the Advisory Committee? 

Mr Bridgeman: The Free State government will see that every 
reasonable opportunity is afforded to these persons to communicate 
with their friends in order to procure legal advice as to any 
representations they may wish to make to the Advisory Committee, and 
their legal advisers will be allowed freedom of access to them for this 
purpose. 

Mr Saklatvala: Who is going to judge as to the exact significance of the 
word ‘reasonable’? 

The debate continued, with Bridgeman being bombarded with questions— 
many of which remained without a satisfactory answer. The House wanted to 
know whether the internee could himself elect to appear before the Advisory 
Committee (whenever it might be set up) and not just appear before it on a 
summons from the Committee? 

James Maxton pressed home his point concerning the Glasgow internee who 


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was British-born and who had been handed over to a foreign government, 
against whom there was no prima facie case; could he be returned home 
forthwith? On being told he must apply to the Advisory Committee (still not in 
existence), Maxton asked Bridgeman, “I am bringing it before you. Is this 
Advisory Committee to supersede your powers, suspending the ordinary law of 
the land?” 

Ramsay Macdonald asked for a guarantee that the Committee would be set up 
without delay. Mr Buchanan followed this by asking whether, if it were proved 
that any of these persons are completely innocent, and have suffered any 
monetary loss or loss of situation, the Home Secretary would grant any 
compensation to them. (This was, later, to become quite a threat to the 
government, and to save themselves from liability for heavy damages, they 
passed an Act of Indemnity.) 

Mr Jones again asked why English-born men and women could not be 
indicted and tried in the usual way in a British court of law, if it was thought 
that they were guilty of some breach of the law. Mr Sexton (Labour) asked 
whether or not he, as a member of the House, could vouch for one of the 
detainees who was known to him since boyhood and who had no connections 
with any revolutionary Party. Mr Sexton was told he could only submit his 
statement to the as-yet-unborn Advisory Committee. 

Mr Maxton caused something of a stir when he asked the Home Secretary if 
arrangements could be made for him to visit one of his constituents in the 
place of internment in Dublin at the weekend. Although pressed on the point, 
the Home Secretary declined to give a reply. 

Mr Saklatvala: (by private notice) asked the Home Secretary whether he 
has received an assurance from the Irish Free State government that the 
persons arrested and deported to Ireland are sent there for internment 
only, and that prior to their release and return to this country, no charge 
will be made against them, rendering these persons liable to trial and 
sentence? 

Mr Bridgeman: Yes, Sir... nothing more than internment is proposed at 
present. If it should be desired later to proceed against any of the 
persons concerned on specific charges, the assent of HM government 
would first be obtained, and the subsequent procedure would be that 
provided by the Indictable Offences Act. 


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Mr Saklatvala: Will the Home Secretary make clear as to where that trial 
is to take place which is forecast to take place subsequently? 

Mr Bridgeman: It depends on where the offence has been committed. 

Mr Saklatvala: Does the Act provide for the place where they can be 
tried? Under the Act, can they be tried outside Great Britain if their 
offence was committed in Great Britain? 

Mr Bridgeman: I am not quite sure to what Act the hon gentleman is 
referring. 

Mr Saklatvala: The Indictable Offences Act. 

Mr Thorne: (Labour) If anyone can prove that he is British and born in 
England, will he have a chance of being tried in England? 

Mr Pringle: Can the Rt. hon gentleman say whether any of these men 
and women deported from this country are liable to be tried by court 
martial by the Free State Army in Ireland? 

Mr Saklatvala: May I have an answer to my question? 

Mr Bridgeman: It depends on the place where the offence was 
committed. 

Mr Thorne: May I have an answer to my question? 

Mr Bridgeman: Certainly. I am not certain they will be tried at all. (Hon. 
members: ‘Oh!’) But if the hon member means will they be heard by the 
Advisory Committee, I shall certainly make representation in that sense 
to that Committee. 

Mr Thorne: The rt hon gentleman says he does not know whether they 
will be tried. Then, in the name of common sense, what have they been 
pinched for? 

Mr Maclean (Labour): The Home Secretary says that the individuals 
who have been deported will, if they are to be tried, be tried in the 
country where the offence took place. Will he state whether it is not the 
case that all these individuals have been arrested under a charge of 
conspiring in this country against the Irish Free State, and in that case, 
will he inform the House what was the sense of deporting them to 
another country instead of trying them in this? 

Mr Bridgeman: I think it would be unsatisfactory if I were to try to give, 


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offhand, an answer to a long question like that... 

Mr McEntee (Labour): In view of the inability of the Rt. hon gentleman 
to give us any information in reply to the question, can he tell us, in the 
case of these English-born subjects, if he will be prepared to admit them 
to bail until he makes up his mind? 

Mr Buchanan: May I ask you a question, Mr Speaker? I want your 
advice in this matter. I wish to move the Adjournment, owing to the 
unsatisfactory answer on the legal point by the Home Secretary. I wish 
to know if I am in order in doing so. 

Mr Speaker: We had the Adjournment moved on this question on 
Monday last. 

Mr Pringle (Liberal): Has not a new point arisen, in this respect, that 
today the Home Secretary is unable to give us any clear answer as to the 
liability to trial of persons who have been deported from this country? 
Mr Speaker: There is perhaps this point— the question whether persons 
of British birth will be allowed to appear. But I understand the Home 
Secretary to say that he is going to make representations to the Advisory 
Committee. What I would suggest is that on this point a question could 
be put on Monday... 

Mr Lansbury: I wish to ask the Home Secretary a question, of which I 
have given him Private Notice, namely, whether his attention has been 
called to the arrest and deportation to Ireland of Miss Barrett, lately 
residing at 24 Campbell Road, Bow and Miss Kathleen Brooks, lately 
residing at Whitehall Court, Highgate; whether he is aware that Miss 
Barrett and her father and mother were all born in this country, and are 
consequently British citizens, and since the signing of the Peace treaty 
between England and Ireland she has taken no part in any agitation 
either against the British or the Free State government; and whether he 
is aware that Miss Kathleen Brooks is also an English-born citizen, who 
at the time of her arrest was in company with her sister; and that the 
two ladies, being informed by the police officers that their orders were 
to arrest Miss M. Brooks, the ladies themselves should decide which 
should be taken; whether Kathleen volunteered to be arrested because 
her sister is suffering from illness; whether also he is aware that the 


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warrants served on these ladies are dated 7th March and were served on 
11th March; that consequently 4 days of the time allowed for appeal had 
elapsed; and whether, under all the circumstances, and in order to 
restore public confidence, the Home Secretary will ask the Free State 
government to release these ladies forthwith and return them without 
delay to this country? 

Mr Bridgeman: I only made the order for the arrest and internment of 
these ladies after being satisfied that there were good reasons for so 
doing. (An hon member: ‘Which one?’) The lady who has been arrested. 
If they desire to appeal against the provisions of the Orders, it is open to 
them to make representations to me to be laid before the Advisory 
Committee... I may add that I am satisfied that the Miss Brooks who was 
arrested is the lady in respect of whom the Order was made. 

Mr Lansbury: Does the Rt. hon gentleman contradict the statement that 
the police officers admitted to these ladies that they didn’t know which 
of them they wished to arrest, and that the ladies had to choose which 
one should be arrested? Is that the method by which the Criminal 
Investigation Department carries out its duties? 

Mr Bridgeman: My information is that the lady they have arrested is the 
one they intended to arrest. 

Mr Saklatvala: Is it the Home Secretary’s conviction that the lady 
arrested is the right person based on the fact that, on Monday 
afternoon, two policemen were inside the house when a letter was 
delivered by a postman simply addressed to ‘Miss M. Brooks’ and was 
taken away by the policemen as a proof of there being a Miss M. Brooks. 
Mr Bridgeman: This is the first time I have heard of that. 

Mr Lansbury: Does the Rt. hon gentleman deny the statement that the 
police did not know which of these ladies they were sent to arrest? 

It might be of interest here to quote a letter sent to my brother Beram after 
Father’s death by a Miss Delia MacDermott of Bloomsbury, London: 

“I wish to say [that Saklatvala] took the first step to offer help in the case 
of the Irish deportees who were wrongfully arrested and sent to Ireland 
in the year 1923. My sister, Miss S. MacDermott, was amongst them, 
and in attending to her affairs when she was imprisoned, I received your 


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Father’s circular letter sent to her address. To me, it was the first ray of 
hope in a very difficult situation.” 

It is tantalising that Miss MacDermott gave no indication of the help that was 
offered. But she refers to it as a circular letter and I feel safe in assuming that 
Father sent the letter, whatever it contained, to all the deportees; it apparently 
brought some hope and comfort to at least one of the recipients and, perhaps, 
to many more of them. 

On the 19th March 1923, the question of the legal position of the deportees 
was debated again under ‘Deportations from Great Britain’ In reply to 
question put to the Home Secretary by the Leader of the Opposition, Ramsay 
MacDonald, came the following: 

The Attorney-General (Sir Douglas Hogg): I have been asked to reply. 
The arrangement with the Irish Free State government is that no 
proceedings shall be instituted against any of these persons anywhere 
without the consent of my Rt. hon Friend the Home Secretary. My Rt. 
hon Friend will, of course, have to be satisfied that there is a prima facie 
case before giving his consent, and he has arranged to consult with me 
in any matter of legal difficulty or doubt. [One would have thought a 
prima facie case should have been established before people were 
carried away by ship in the middle of the night to be transported to a 
foreign gaol!] 

When the consent is given, the person to be tried will be placed in 
exactly the same position, and dealt with in exactly the same way, as if 
he had not been deported. If the crime is one committed in England and 
triable there, application will be made to an English magistrate for a 
summons or warrant, and the case will be tried before an English 
magistrate and sent for trial by him, if a prima facie case is made out. 

If the crime is one committed in Ireland and triable there, a warrant will 
be applied for before an Irish magistrate. It will be backed by an English 
magistrate under the provisions of Section 12 of the Indictable Offences 
Act of 1848, and the accused person will then be tried before the Irish 
magistrate, and by him committed for trial, if a prima facie case is made 
out. Whether the trial takes place before an English or an Irish 
magistrate, the accused person will be present. 

Mr W. Thorn: As far as these people are concerned, has the Habeas 


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Corpus Act been suspended? 

No reply was forthcoming to this question! 

Captain Benn: Will the Rt. hon gentleman say whether these deportees 
will have the right, if they desire, of personal access to the Advisory 
Committee? 

The Attorney-General: Yes, and I ought to say that the third member of 
the Advisory Committee is Sir Matthew Wallace, JP, ex-President of the 
Scottish Chamber of Agriculture, member of the Royal Commission, 
Defence of the Realm... and member of the War Compensation Court. 
There will be access to the Committee for any of the deportees who wish 
to see them. 

Mr Rhys Davies: What means were there for a solicitor on behalf of 
these deportees to get into touch with his client during the last few days, 
and particularly, what is the position in respect of George Clancy, of 
Manchester, whose solicitor sent a letter on behalf of this man which 
has not yet reached him? 

The Attorney-General: I was not aware of the matter referred to in the 
last part of the hon member’s question, but if he will send me a 
statement of the facts, I will be glad to enquire into them. 

Mr Buchanan: Is the Rt. hon gentleman aware that certain Scottish 
members made an effort to get across to meet certain of their 
constituents, and were not provided with those full facilities to which 
they thought they were entitled for conversation with these men and 
inquiry into the subject? 

The Attorney-General: In answer to a question like this, I gave last week 
a statement made by the Irish Free State government that the internees 
would be allowed to see their legal advisers on points of law and to 
receive communications from their friends; but I must leave it to the 
Free State governments to make regulations with regard to other 
people. 

Mr Buchanan: Seeing that the British government take the 
responsibility for arresting and deporting these men, why cannot they 
take the responsibility of allowing, without the sanction of the Free 
State, Scottish members to be with these men? Is the reason that they 


224 



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are afraid we might get to know the real position and the real reason 
why these men were arrested? 

Further questions and answers were exchanged between several members and 
the Attorney-General on the subject of access to the deportees of their friends, 
legal advisers and members of Parliament. 

Mr Clynes: Have any steps been taken to inform fully the persons 
arrested of the conditions and facilities covering the replies which he 
has given this afternoon? 

The Attorney-General: I am afraid that I would like to have notice of 
that question. 

Lt. Col. Archer-Shee (Unionist): Is it not a fact that these men have been 
deported under a Statute made by this House which expressly 
suspended the Habeas Corpus Act with reference to rebellion in Ireland, 
and that these men are simply shut up and that there is no necessity 
whatever for all these questions? 

Mr Buchanan: In view of the unsatisfactory answers, may I be allowed 
to move the Adjournment of the House on a definite matter of urgent 
public importance, namely, the failure of the government to provide 
access to the interned persons by their parliamentary representatives. 

Mr Speaker: The hon member must ask leave to make that Motion when 
we have disposed of the other questions. 

Mr Pringle: May I repeat the question of the hon member for Bridgeton 
(Mr Maxton) which the Home Secretary did not answer, namely, 
whether the Home Office or the Scottish Office actually know the 
regulations regarding access made by the Irish Free State government? 
Mr Bridgeman: I should like to have notice of that question. Obviously, I 
do not want to misquote. 

Mr Shakespeare May I ask whether, on the Internment Orders which 
the Rt. hon gentleman signed, the place of internment was in Ireland? 
Mr Bridgeman: Yes, Sir. 

Mr Shakespeare: How is it that such a place of internment can be 
mentioned, considering that Ireland is now outside the jurisdiction of 
the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act? 

Mr Bridgeman: The warrant said a place within the Free State portion of 


225 



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Ireland. 

Mr Shakespeare: Is it not a fact that the Free State is now outside the 
jurisdiction of the Restoration of Order Act? 

Mr Bridgeman: No, Sir. 

Two days after this exchange in the House, the Daily Herald proclaimed in a 
front-page head-line, ‘Dublin Thunderbolt for Mr Bridgeman— Act for 
Deportation Said to be Dead— Mr Cosgrove’s Denials:’ 

“A thunderbolt from Dublin was launched yesterday at Mr Bridgeman, 
Home Secretary in Mr Bonar Law’s government. ‘Under whatever 
authority these men were deported and detained, ‘ said President 
Cosgrove in the Dail, ‘it was not under the Restoration of Order in 
Ireland Act’. This statement is in direct contradiction to Mr Bridgeman’s 
reply on March 12th to Mr Ramsay MacDonald. 

“On that day the following question was asked and answered: 

“Mr Macdonald: ‘Has my Rt. hon Friend acted under the Restoration of 
Order Ireland Act Regulation?’ 

“Mr Bridgeman: ‘Yes, I have...’ 

“Mr Cosgrove declared yesterday that the Act, so far as Ireland was 
concerned, had expired. ‘It might be the legal opinion in Great Britain,’ 
he added, ‘that the Act was still in force in Britain, but he thought it had 
not been suggested that that was so with regard to Ireland.’ Mr Cosgrove 
repudiated the suggestion that British Ministers had authority in the 
Free State’s Affairs.” 

Questions regarding the legal niceties of British citizens being deported to a 
foreign country for trial continued. Saklatvala asked, “May we take it for 
granted from the answers given that there is no possibility of any of the 
interned persons being tried by Court Martial in Ireland?” 

To which the Attorney-General replied: “Certainly, there is no such 
possibility.” 

In the session on 19th March, under ‘Written Answers’, Saklatvala asked the 
Home Secretary whether, in sanctioning the deportation of 110 persons from 
here to Ireland, he had taken into consideration a precedent of any case of 
sending prisoners from areas where martial law does not exist to areas where 
martial law is in operation; and, if so, were such decisions in favour of such 


226 



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action being considered constitutional? 

Mr Bridgeman: Yes, Sir. This consideration was before me... The point, 
however, is not material, for, as I have already explained, it had been 
arranged with the Free State before these persons were sent to Ireland 
that no action other than internment would be taken without the 
agreement of His Majesty’s government. 

Mr Saklatvala asked the Home Secretary if he is aware that Miss Barrett 
and other deportees were asked in Mountjoy Prison to sign pledges not 
to work in future for the Republican Party in Great Britain; and, in view 
of his statement that the prisoners were sent over merely for 
internment, was he consulted by the Free State authorities before they 
attempted to exact such pledges from the internees; is he aware that in a 
letter sent by Eileen Cullinan to her mother, all portions were cut out 
excepting 3 lines at the commencement and 3 lines at the end; was this 
censorship exercised by the Home Office with knowledge of the 
offending paragraphs or was it done by the Irish Free State; and will he 
see that the rights of the interned persons to communicate with their 
families and friends are protected? 

Mr Bridgeman: I am informed by the Free State government that no 
deportees have been asked to sign pledges, as stated in the question, not 
to work in future for the Republican Party in Great Britain; and that the 
terms of the undertaking which a number of prisoners in Ireland have 
given, and which it would be open to any internees to give, are as 
follows: T promise that I will not use arms against the Parliament 
elected by the Irish people or government for the time being responsible 
to that Parliament, and that I will not support in any way any such 
action, not will I interfere with the property or the persons of others.’ 
The letter referred to was censored by the Free State authorities as 
mentioned. Internees are allowed to communicate with their relatives 
and friends subject to censorship, and I have no reason to think that 
they are being unduly restricted in this respect. 

On 22nd March 1923, the Daily Herald reported on the front page: ‘All’s Not 

Well With Irish Deportees. Disquieting statements Reach This Country. 

Brother’s Futile Visit:’ 

“Disquieting statements as to the conditions under which the deportees 


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from England and Scotland are interned in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, 
have reached the Reverend Herbert Dunnico MP, who is Treasurer of 
the fund for their legal defence and for the assistance of their relatives. 
“Notwithstanding the ministerial assurances that the internees would be 
allowed to communicate with their friends, it appears that all letters and 
parcels have been stopped since last Saturday. 

“Mr Francis Brooks, brother to Miss Kathleen Brooks, one of the 
internees, has returned from Dublin where he made applications to the 
Acting-Governor of Mountjoy Prison to be allowed to see his sister. He 
states that he was informed in reply that neither he nor a legal adviser 
could be allowed to see her. 

“Mr Brooks also wanted to supply his sister, who was in delicate health, 
with a change of clothing, but was told that if she made application to 
the doctor she would be provided with prison clothing.” 

The same newspaper, two days later, reported that: 

“...the legality of the Irish deportations was challenged in the High Court 
yesterday when Mr Patrick Hastings KC applied on behalf of Mr Art 
O’Brien, one of the internees, for a writ of Habeas Corpus. 

“Counsel explained that the affidavit on which he moved was that of Mr 
O’Brien’s sister. The rule required that the affidavit should be made by 
the person in custody, but there were peculiar circumstances in the case 
in the fact that Mr O’Brien was interned in Ireland and it would be 
impossible to get an affidavit from him in time for the application to be 
made this term. 

“Mr Hastings quoted authority to show that the affidavit might be made 
—and in fact had been made on occasions by other persons, upon 
evidence that the person concerned was prevented from making such an 
affidavit. Counsel added that a telegram had been received from Mr 
O’Brien, stating that he desired application to be made for his release. 
“Mr Justice Avory asked what grounds there were for saying Mr O’Brien 
was coerced, or for any other reason was unable to make application. 

“Mr Hastings said there was none. The Crown, it appeared, had made 
arrangements whereby an attorney might see a man interned in Ireland, 
and if time and means permitted a solicitor could go to Ireland to get 


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the affidavit... 

“(Mr W.H. Thompson, solicitor, London, may try to see Mr O’Brien 
during a weekend visit to Dublin.) 

“Rev. H. Dunnico quoted another instance of a solicitor being refused 
permission to see one of the internees, Mr Macmahon. Mr Bridgeman 
promised that if given particulars, he would communicate with Dublin 
and facilitate the visit.” 

On the 26th March 1923, the Daily Herald carried the following item, under 

headlines proclaiming ‘Deportees Challenge Home Secretary— Imprisoned 

Men Say Statements are Deliberate and Contemptible Falsehoods:’ 

“A striking indictment of the Home Secretary’s high-handed and illegal 
methods of rounding up men and women, against whom no charge is 
made, is contained in a letter written to him by some of the Irish 
deportees now incarcerated in Mountjoy Prison. Passages from this 
document have been sent to the Daily Herald by Mr S. Saklatvala 
(Labour MP for Battersea) who states that he will today publish the 
letter in full. 

“The letter, dated 18th March 1923, was written from C-Wing of 
Mountjoy Prison addressed to Mr Bridgeman. It ends by speaking of the 
Advisory Committee as a body created by the accusers before which the 
accused are to go to prove their innocence. They refuse to have anything 
to do with it. The letter was signed by 28 internees.” [The letter was, in 
fact, signed by 32 internees.] 

House of Commons Hansard for 26th March 1923 reports under ‘Written 

Answers Ireland— Deportations From Great Britain’ the following debate: 

Mr Shinwell asked the Home Secretary 1) On what grounds Ambrose 
Kenny, of Bathgate, was deported and in which part of Ireland was he 
interned; who is to be responsible for the maintenance of his wife and 
family; 2) on what grounds Patrick Hyland, of Winchburgh, was 
deported and in which part of Ireland was he interned, and who is to be 
responsible for the maintenance of his wife and family? 

Capt. Elliot: I have been asked to reply to these questions. Ambrose 
Kenny and Patrick Hyland have been interned in Ireland on the ground 
that they are persons suspected of acting, having acted or being about to 


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act in a manner prejudicial to the restoration and maintenance of order 
in Ireland. They are at present interned in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin. The 
point raised in the third part of these 2 questions is now under 
consideration. [The men had been in prison for two weeks— presumably 
the families were expected to go hungry and their rent remain unpaid 
while the ponderous ‘consideration’ was taking place.] 

Mr Trevelyan asked the Home Secretary whether he will publish the 
correspondence which took place between himself and the Free State 
government in relation to the action taken under the Restoration of 
Order (Ireland) Act? 

Mr Bridgeman: I regret that I cannot add to the very full statements on 
this question made by the Attorney-General and myself in recent 
debates. 

Mr Morris asked the Home Secretary whether the Advisory Committee 
recently appointed under Regulation 14B is going to sit in Great Britain 
or in the Irish Free State? 

Mr Bridgeman: The Committee proposes to sit in this country. 

Mr Saklatvala asked the Home Secretary if he has received direct 
statements of their case and claims from the deportees in Ireland; and, 
if so, will he place them upon the Table of the House, and also copies of 
any replies that he may make to the same? 

Mr Bridgeman: I have received representations from one of these 
persons and his case is being referred to the Advisory Committee. I have 
also received a lengthy protest in general terms, signed by 32 of the 
deportees, in which they challenge the legality of the action taken by 
HM government and decline to recognise the Advisory Committee. The 
answer to the last part of the question is in the negative. 

Mercifully, the deportees and opposition MPs were not the only people to 
challenge the legality of the Home Secretary’s autocratic and dictatorial orders 
to arrest and intern in a foreign country, without trial, these British men and 
women. As has already been mentioned, Patrick Campbell applied for a writ of 
habeus corpus on behalf of two of the internees and the case of Mr O’Brien 
was to prove once and for all, in the most public way possible, the illegality of 


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Mr Bridgeman’s instructions to the arresting police. Patrick Hastings lost his 
application for a writ of habeus corpus in respect of Mr O’Brien but appealed 
against the decision given by Mr Justice Avory on the 23rd March. 

On 10th May 1923, the Manchester Guardian reported the case under the 
headlines, ‘Deportations Not Legal— O’Brien Case Goes Against The 
government’ 

“The Court of Appeal yesterday unanimously reversed the decision of 
the Lord Chief Justice’s Court and decided that the deportation of Art 
O’Brien to the Irish Free State was illegal. The Court therefore granted 
O’Brien’s application for a writ of Habeus Corpus, and ordered the 
Home Secretary to produce him in court next Wednesday. O’Brien is at 
present in a Dublin prison. 

“It was also held that recent Orders in Council made by the government 
in support of the order for internment were ultra vires. The Attorney 
General announced that he would appeal to the House of Lords and ask 
for the case to be heard on Monday. The decision in the O’Brien case 
affects all the deportees, numbering over a hundred.” 

The arrogant optimism which induced the government of the day to appeal to 
the House of Lords is a frailty suffered by all too many governments. Their 
pride, most aptly, came before their fall. 

On the 15th March, the Guardian reported the case once again in the following 
humiliating terms (humiliating for the government, that is, and much to the 
jubilation of all the internees and their supporters): 

“It must be a long time since a British government has been placed in so 
mortifying a position by legal blunders of its own as the present 
government occupies after yesterday’s decision of the House of Lords. 
Last week the Court of Appeal decided that the deportation of Mr 
O’Brien— and presumably of his 100 fellow-deportees from England to 
Ireland— was illegal and that Mr O’Brien must be brought up for release. 
That branded blunder number one. The government thereupon 
appealed to the House of Lords, and now it appears that this appeal 
itself was another legal blunder— the House of Lords has no jurisdiction 
in the matter. To laymen, the law as laid down yesterday by a majority 
of the Law Lords, seems highly reasonable... 

“The Home Office, which we taxpayers supply at some expense with 


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legal advisers, ought never to have butted its head against a wall with 
such a high degree of stopping power as the law of Habeus Corpus... 
And now, to save the Home Secretary from the very natural claims 
which the persons improperly arrested are likely to make for pecuniary 
or other satisfaction, there will probably be an Act of Indemnity; that is 
to say, a special law that the Home Secretary is to be none the worse off 
for having acted unlawfully. Such special laws are not desirable things; 
the usual custom of allowing illegal acts to make their authors 
uncomfortable is much to be preferred. 

“Still, the Home Secretary acted as agent for us all and ‘did it for the 
best’ though he did it badly; so, according to precedent, he has to be 
indemnified. And as the persons illegally treated must not be damnified, 
no doubt they will have to be compensated out of public money. Thus, at 
every turn of the whole business, the poor taxpayer pays...” 

In fact, the particular Act of Indemnity that was passed, made no provision for 
the wronged deportees to be given any compensation except for actual 
expenses and losses incurred, and there is no doubt that many of them 
suffered financial hardship to the point of ruin, and were, in the words of the 
Manchester Guardian, “damnified.” Many lost their jobs and no doubt 
suffered great hardship on their release by a grudging, reluctant and one 
might almost claim, a vindictive government. 

As to Bridgeman, he did have the grace to offer his resignation, but this was 
not accepted by the Prime Minister. (The Prime Minister, Andrew Bonar Law, 
had been absent from duty for some months when this crisis arose and Stanley 
Baldwin was acting for him in the House of Commons. Indeed, Law, suffering 
from cancer of the throat, was to resign from office only a few days after these 
events). It is possible that in other circumstances Mr Bridgeman’s resignation 
might have been accepted. His departure might have restored a little dignity to 
the government after the humiliating debacle it had suffered. It is to be hoped 
that the Home Secretary also had the grace to feel somewhat abashed when 
facing all those opposition MPs who had questioned the legality of his actions 
all along. 

There is a usually unspoken but deep-rooted myth among the voters in Great 
Britain, thankfully dispelled occasionally, that right-wing governments are 
more efficient than left-wing ones. Well, this was only one of many instances 


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when the Labour and Liberal members were proved right and the 
Conservatives were proved to be in the wrong. O, yes, it does sometimes 
happen, I’m afraid! It is not that they are right in the sense of right versus 
wrong, it is just that they seem to be more persuasively plausible. 

Ramsay MacDonald, opposing the introduction of the Bill of Indemnity 
proposed by Stanley Baldwin (acting for the Prime Minister), said: 

...a decision was made without that discretion which should have been 
exercised and without due consideration for the constitutional rights of 
the people arrested. Hon. members on this side of the House, my hon 
Friend the member for Bow and Bromley (Mr Lansbury) the hon 
member for North Battersea (Mr Saklatvala), and various other 
members, in the early days of the arrests and deportations, brought here 
case after case where the warrants were irregularly served. The illegality 
of his actions had been voiced loudly and he did not listen. He, 
therefore, has no right to claim indemnity. 

...the deportees have no means of proving that they were deported 
illegally (when looking for jobs or facing their employers). The 
government are in honour bound to do justice to these men. 

...I do say that never in the whole history of this country, since legal 
processes were established firmly and fixedly, was an Indemnity Bill less 
worthy of support than the one which is before us now. 

Saklatvala made the following contribution to the debate: 

I beg to submit to the Committee considerations rather from a practical 
than merely from a political point of view. In the first place I submit that 
the amendment put forward from this side really restores to the 
Indemnity Act its correct as well as its impartial character. If it is to be 
an Act of Indemnity, surely we are not supposed to legislate for the 
partial benefit of a few citizens to the detriment of other citizens. Why 
not indemnify everyone who has suffered from these erroneous 
measures? 

It is not merely the Home Secretary, it is not merely the police 
constable, it is not merely the government officers who have been put in 
the wrong or have suffered from these errors and are seeking relief. 
There are 112 victims. Why not indemnify them, and make this a real 
Act of Indemnity, giving an indemnity to everyone from the effects of 


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this most unfortunate and precipitate action that the Home Secretary 
was misled into taking under faulty advice? 

From this point of view I suggest that, in order to make the Indemnity 
Act complete, the government ought to allow this kind of civil action to 
be taken. [The Act as proposed shielded the Home Secretary from both 
civil and criminal action— an amendment suggested by the opposition 
indemnified him only from criminal and not from civil proceedings]. 

I will urge another point, as to the difference between allowing the 
sufferers to take action under an existing and well-established law and 
their taking action under some new and speculative law. Of these 112 
sufferers the majority, almost all, are people of very limited means- 
people without means, we may say. It is impossible for many of them to 
spend money speculatively on legal advice and on counsel, to go 
speculatively before a new tribunal and take their chance whether they 
will get their reward or whether they will be penalised by having to pay a 
higher cost then the reward they get. [Lloyd George had suggested 
setting up a tribunal to assess damages for the internees.] 

Under the established law they know their position. It would be more or 
less a formal action, an inexpensive action, both to the state and to the 
individual sufferers: it would be a nominal action. People know exactly, 
under the well-defined law, what their rights are. There is very little 
legal argument to be proceeded with, and in that way we not only 
simplify the position of the sufferers but render them far happier and 
give them a greater amount of justice than by throwing them on the 
mercy of an unknown tribunal, to take their chance of fighting out a 
lawsuit the result of which they would not know. 

There is another consideration. I suppose the Committee now realise we 
are all chastened, that the opinions of the lawyers are, after all, not 
infallible, or, at least, have been several times in conflict with the 
opinions of other lawyers. A few weeks ago the position was considered 
to be unshakeable at law, in spite of all the warnings given even by some 
competent lawyers from the Labour Benches, who had developed a 
sense, not only of seeing the law but even of seeing the people’s point of 
view, after belonging to the people’s party. We had it pointed out then 
that there was some chance of the law being faulty. I submit again to the 


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same lawyers that even this Indemnity Act may in itself still be a legal 
delusion. I still doubt the legality of this Act of Indemnity itself. I still 
would submit — 

The Chairman: The hon member seems to me to be raising a broader 
question than that dealt with in the amendment. 

Mr Saklatvala: I am coming to the amendment. I submit that the real 
indemnity to the Home Secretary will come not by this Act forced upon 
the people but that it can only come by the mutual consent of the 
sufferers. 

The Chairman: That is really quite outside the amendment. I must ask 
the hon member to confine himself to the question of criminal and civil 
proceedings. 

Mr Saklatvala: I am submitting that, if the sufferers are given the 
protection which is sought in this amendment, then they would be an 
agreeable party to accepting the position which is offered to them. If the 
government will not accept this amendment, and will force an issue 
upon the sufferers, then they will be inviting trouble again by inducing 
the sufferers to challenge the validity of this very Act, which seems to be 
in defiance of certain sections of the original Habeas Corpus Act, which 
does not permit the King, or his heirs, executors, or officers to set aside 
the punishment or indemnity levied under the Habeas Corpus Act. 

The Chairman: That would be a relevant argument on the 2nd or 3rd 
Reading, but not on this amendment. 

Mr Saklatvala: I submit to your ruling. To cut the argument short, I 
submit that, if the Labour Party’s amendment, as it is now suggested in 
the most friendly spirit to the government, be accepted, it is only then 
that the government Officers will get the indemnity that they are 
seeking. If they are seeking a one-sided indemnity by depriving the 
sufferers of their rights, they will provoke a fight once again on the part 
of the sufferers and they will themselves suffer. 

When the Indemnity Bill came up for the Third Reading on the 1st June, Mr 
Buchanan, (Labour member for Gorbals) “felt in duty bound to protest against 
its passing.” He said: 

I look upon it as one of the worst features of the political life of this 


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country, that a government should arrest persons illegally and deport 
them to another country, and then, having done that, pass a Bill to 
condone its action... Then, to get the opposition to agree, they say, ‘We 
will compensate the victims of our action’... They can pile up the 
compensation as high as they care, but it does not matter to me; the 
thing that matters to me, much more than either the Labour Party or the 
Conservative Party or the Liberal Party, or anything else, is the freedom 
of the individual. If you are going to interfere with the right of a person 
to have opinions, to be free to express them within his country, without 
being deported to another country, then you are going to violate all that 
is great and good in this country... I feel it my duty to enter my protest 
against this obnoxious Bill.” 

He was followed by Mr F. Gray (Liberal member for Oxford) who protested 
equally strongly against the Bill. In the course of a long and strong speech, he 
said: 

What penalty has this government paid for the mistake it has made by a 
responsible Minister? In the days of Disraeli or of Gladstone, or of the 
late Lord Salisbury, it would have been impossible for a mistake of this 
magnitude, infringing the liberty of the subject, to be made without 
bringing about the resignation of the government of the day... 

I do not know whether any useful purpose will be served by my going 
heroically into the Lobby with the Hon member for Gorbals, (Mr 
Buchanan) I do not know, indeed, whether we two together would be 
allowed to go alone into the Lobby,, but certainly, at every stage I shall 
protest against, object to, and obstruct a Bill which I believe to be 
contrary to the Constitution of this country.” 

Mr Saklatvala: The sentiments expressed by the hon member for 
Gorbals (Mr Buchanan) are really the sentiments of many of us, 
although perhaps differently expressed, and though we may not have a 
chance of voting in the Lobby directly against this Bill, because that, 
perhaps, would be a needless process, we must not be taken on that 
account to be supporters of the principles embodied in the Bill- 
principles against which protests have been practically expressed more 
than once. 

The hon member for Oxford City (Mr F. Gray) suggested that, if a 


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Liberal or Conservative Parliament in the past had adopted such a 
measure, the government would have resigned as a whole.. I may 
perhaps remind the House that a Liberal government has taken similar 
acts in deporting persons without trial, and interning them. That 
happened under the regime of Lord Morley [Secretary of State for India] 
in my poor country, India, but it being the act of a Liberal Minister of a 
Liberal government, neither had the self-respect to resign. It is another 
illustration of the saying that what is sauce for the gander is not always 
sauce for the goose. Liberalism has its different faces to be presented to 
different people according to their particular convenience. I now appeal 
to the government on two points. 

I want to know whether they are going to say— with this indemnity 
granted to them with a certain amount of hopefulness on the part of the 
Labour members— that they will carry out in spirit the little concessions 
they are making to the deportees in a larger measure than has been 
indicated in some quarters. I appeal to the noble Lord to reflect on his 
remarks with regard to particular persons among the deportees and tell 
us how he intends to apply his logic in the case of those against whom 
further action is to be taken. 

This Bill of Indemnity, as far as the deportees are concerned, is not a 
bonus for good character, neither is it a penalty for bad character. It has 
nothing to do with character. The damage to the deportees arises and 
becomes due, not from any bad action on their part, but from the wrong 
action of the government. In the case of those deportees against whom 
the government can take no action, probably we may accept the plea 
and give the benefit of it to the Home Secretary. 

But there is another set of deportees whom the Home Secretary 
interned, and against whom he is now taking definite action on the basis 
of evidence captured at the time of their arrest. In those cases he had a 
clear alternative in front of him. He could have taken action against 
them but he preferred not to do so; he preferred to deport them without 
charge or trial, and so in their case his crime was greater than it was in 
the case of the other deportees. I submit that in their case the damage 
arising out of the unwarrantable action of the Home Secretary-technical 
though he may term it— gives them a more emphatic claim than exists in 


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the case of those against whom no proceedings are instituted. 

I hope the words of the noble Lord will not prejudice the tribunal and 
make the members of it think that these persons are entitled to less 
damages on account of their bad character. Character has nothing to do 
with it. These persons, in whose cases a legal course was open to the Rt 
Hon .gentleman, are undoubtedly entitled to higher damages than are 
the other deportees. 

The Home Secretary gave us an apologia which, to my mind, was a little 
worse than his crime. When he was appealed to not to prejudice the case 
of persons still to be tried, he suggested that the fact that only 8 of the 
deportees registered their protest with the Advisory Committee, was a 
tacit admission that he had acted correctly in interning them. These 
were ungenerous and clearly unjust observations for a representative of 
the government to make. 

The Home Secretary did know that in a written document sent to him 
from Mountjoy Prison, it was clearly stated that internees challenged 
the right of the Home Secretary to intern them. They challenged his 
right under that particular Act, on the ground that it was void. The 
Committee was established in pursuance of that Act which the internees 
were challenging, and, on the particular occasion when they repudiated 
the right of the Home Secretary any longer to act under that Act, they 
naturally repudiated the authority of the Advisory Committee 
established under that Act; and they not only clearly refused to go 
before it, but 47 of the internees who, at first, hastily agreed to do so, on 
this definite principle, withdrew their applications. 

The mere fact, therefore, that only eight persons agreed finally to go to 
the Advisory Committee was not any proof of their tacit admission of 
the right of the Home Secretary to intern them, but was a higher protest 
on their part against the entire action of the Home Secretary, and 
against everything connected with the Act on which the Home Secretary 
was, under a misapprehension, acting at the time. 

These are the only two submissions that I desire to make to the 
government. The best way of expressing their regret and their sense of 
justice towards those who have been victimised for nothing is now to 
put into application the relief that they are offering in the right spirit, 

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instead of applying wrong logic and raising technical objections against 
the interest of poor men and women. 

[Editor’s note: Saklatvala visited Ireland on at least two occasions. On 21st 

April 1925 the Irish Times reported: 

“The visit of Mr. Saklatvala, member of Parliament for North Battersea, 
to Dublin has created only a languid interest among the general public. 
He is an Indian Communist, whose ideal of government is the Soviet, 
and his trip to the Free State last Sunday was undertaken, apparently, 
with a view to the encouragement of Bolshevist principles in this 
country. Mr. Saklatvala was accompanied by Mr. Robert Stewart, of 
Dundee, also a Communist. A meeting was held in Sackville Street, 
under the shade of a crimson banner which was sent by the Russian 
proletariat to its Irish comrades; and after Mr. Saklatvala had spoken 
for two tedious hours, Mr. Stewart announced that before the end of 
next month he would have founded an organisation in the Free State for 
the purpose of promoting the interests of a Workers' Republic... 

“The revolutionary method, said Mr. Saklatvala, was the only course 
that could befriend the labouring classes. If the workers wanted the 
land, said Mr. Stewart, let them take it, and legalise their action 
afterwards. The workers of Dublin had heard that sort of thing before 
last Sunday. They know precisely how much it is worth, and the 
amusement with which they listened to Mr. Saklatvala's vapourings was 
significant of their attitude towards him and his like. Dublin has had a 
taste of Communism and wants no more.”] 


239 



CHAPTER 12 


The MP for Battersea and India 

The Chaura Chauri case. Campaign for the release of Lala 
Lajpat Raifrom prison. Parliamentary speech on the 
doubling of the Salt Tax and on other Indian issues, 1923. 
First visit to the USSR, August 1923. 


On the 28th March 1923, Lord Curzon asked in the House if Battersea 
Borough Council could not be prevented from purchasing a plot of land for 
£4,000 for the purpose of building a showroom for the sale of electrical 
appliances. Mr Saklatvala was quick to defend the local interests of his 
constituency: “Is the Hon. and Gallant gentleman aware,” he asked, “that the 
Battersea Borough Council, by running its own power station, are selling 
electric current at fourpence-half-penny compared with eightpence in the 
neighbouring Borough by a private company, and in view of this, and 
especially when the landlord will not part with the land cheaper, will the Hon. 
and Gallant member consider this a reasonable demand?” Thus the benefits of 
privately- versus publicly-owned services were under discussion, then as now. 
On the same day, Saklatvala asked the Home Secretary if he was aware that 
the appeal against the death sentence of Bernard Pomeroy had been 
dismissed; and, in view of the close similarity of the mental condition of 
Pomeroy to that of Ronald True, is he prepared to have a medical enquiry into 
this case in the same manner as in the case of Ronald True? 

Mr Bridgeman replied that it did not appear that there is reason to believe that 
the prisoner is insane and no medical enquiry would take place. This is an 
illustration of Saklatvala’s ability to plead compassionately for individuals as 
much as for the rights of millions. 

[Editor’s note: Bernard Pomeroy, a shop assistant aged 25, was sentenced on 
1st March for the murder of Alice May Cheshire in a motor cab on 5th 
February, and was executed at Pentonville Prison on 5th April]. 

On the 16th April 1923, Stanley Baldwin presented his budget and, in the 
debate that followed, Saklatvala made the following contribution: 


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Mr Saklatvala: I wish to put a few questions to the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer in order that we may understand some of the issues raised by 
him in his speech. The Chancellor congratulated the country and the 
government on the appreciation of all government stocks. I should like 
to know from the Chancellor, who is a man of business experience, if he 
does not attribute some of this apparent financial appreciation and 
prosperity to the continuance of unemployment in this country. 

There is no doubt that the public debt at the present moment is of a 
different character from what it was in pre-war days. The finances of 
this country as well as the finances of other countries are also of a 
different character. Everywhere we suffer either from inflation of 
currency, from paper currency or from unemployment. At the present 
time Great Britain is in the happy position from the financial point of 
view, and from the Bankers’ point of view, of not having continually to 
put forward more paper money, because of a very substantial reduction 
in the wage-earning power of the working classes. 

I will not enter into any disputable figures, but it is admitted that 
between three hundred million and five hundred million pounds a year 
represents the reduced wage bill, so that the government has not to 
produce so much money to be paid in wages. Is not that responsible for 
this apparent prosperity? 

There is another lesson in this apparent prosperity. Last year Income 
Tax was reduced by a shilling in the pound, and it was supposed that all 
these shillings would go back into industrial investment. Instead of that 
it is obvious that those who have saved a shilling are less anxious to 
spend it on private enterprise and are running to government Securities, 
and that is the reason for the appreciation of government Securities. 

That appreciation must be directly in proportion to the lack of private 
enterprise and industrial investment. It shows how sadly money is 
running away from industrial investment, and is trying to get some 
earning on a safe basis from government Securities. If that is so, is it 
wise for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give another reduction of 
sixpence in the same fashion? 

If reduction in the Income Tax was justifiable, was there not a way of 
making that reduction so as to increase the buying capacity of the 


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consumer? That way of doing it is by exemption of all income up to 
£250 from any Income Tax whatever. This is done in the case of large 
companies, which, before making their Income Tax returns are 
permitted to deduct the sums that are necessary for the requirements of 
staff and plant. 

The individual wage-earner’s staff and plant is his body. Why should we 
not allow for the maintenance of that before he begins to be taxed? Who 
can argue that four or five pounds is not a bare allowance to keep a man 
and his family going? That is the staff by which he earns his income. 

If the Chancellor could still see his way to give this relaxation out of the 
Income Tax, not in the shape of another sixpence which will go into the 
pockets of the dividend earner, but by exempting entirely incomes up to 
£250 free from all taxes.” (Do these arguments not have a familiar ring 
to them in 1989?) 

...The Chancellor has referred to the interest on debt and the method of 
lightening it as speedily as possible. He has not said much with regard 
to his own successful manipulation of the American debt. The 
Chancellor went to America. He made certain appeals to the reason of 
the American financiers and was successful in inducing them to accept 
3% interest. 

Why should not the Chancellor, immediately after coming back, have 
called together the British financiers and appealed to their sense of 
patriotism and sense of human duty and told them that the Americans 
had put them to shame by reducing the interest, and why should the 
British financier not reduce the interest for the British poor and the 
working classes? That remains yet to be explained. We were told in a 
speech in the House that the question of interest on the debt is a 
question of contract. When there was an interjection regarding the 
American debt it was said that America voluntarily reduced the interest. 
Why do not the British owners of the national stock offer voluntarily to 
reduce their interest? Are they waiting for us to compel them to do so? 
Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer made any attempt? It was his 
sacred duty to this nation to make that attempt and if it has failed he has 
not stood by the British nation as his duty required. If he made private 
efforts and failed it was his duty to expose the names of all those 


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patriots who refused to act towards the British people as the American 
financiers agreed to act. That information would be enlightening if the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer would give it. 

It has been well known that out of the national debt there is about 250 
million which may be said to belong to the man in the street. The 
remainder belongs to fairly comfortable people and to the big financiers 
themselves, and those people, in paying Income Tax and other taxes, are 
merely paying to themselves the interest on their national stock, and 
they are not shouldering the burden of national revenue for education, 
Army, Navy, and all the other estimated expenditure of the country... 

At present, the burden of taxation for maintaining the services of the 
country falls upon the poor people, and those who pay Income Tax out 
of their incomes, which the poor people earn for them, are getting back 
almost the whole sum in the shape of interest due to themselves on the 
national stock which they hold. I submit for the serious consideration of 
the Chancellor that he should devise a method by which the Income Tax 
payer would do no more than he did before the War, paying a just 
contribution towards the standing expenses of the country. 

During this his first term in Parliament, Saklatvala, as a member of both the 
Communist and Labour Parties, was anxious to promote cooperation between 
the two and to give offence to neither (indeed, for several years this 
cooperation was the hope and intention of the Communist Party). He had, in 
any case, promised at the time of his endorsement as a Labour Candidate, to 
follow the aims and the manifesto of the Labour Party. That he rebelled over 
the Irish question was inevitable, but in general terms he toed the official 
Labour Party line. 

But on the question of India, he could be more independent, since he was 
frequently asked for guidance in this sphere by the Labour leadership and his 
expertise on Indian affairs was greatly valued by both the Labour and 
Communist parties. He was the only MP in both parties who had extensive 
experience and knowledge of Indian business and economics, Indian politics 
and the suffering of the urban and peasant poor. 

This does not mean that the Party took the advice which he proffered; indeed, 
Saklatvala became more and more disillusioned with the Labour Party in this 
field, seeing them as behaving more like the Liberal Party than a socialist one. 


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While Saklatvala demanded absolute and total freedom for India, (and for all 
subject peoples) the Labour Party were loth to yield Great Britain’s power and 
worked more for that power to be used benevolently than for it to be totally 
relinquished. In most matters, Saklatvala balanced on a precarious tightrope 
between the two parties but, since neither the Communist Party of Great 
Britain nor the Communist International had at that time finally resolved how 
to deal with imperialism and the colonies, when speaking on Indian affairs he 
could afford to follow his individual line without upsetting the Communists or 
the Labour Party. 

As early as April, he had raised a question concerning a major mining disaster 
in India and the answer given by the Under-Secretary of State (Earl 
Winterton) revealed that until new legislation came into force in July, there 
was no question of paying compensation to the bereaved families or wounded 
miners. Saklatvala always used his position in Parliament to expose such 
inhuman iniquities of the imperial system. 

A little later, in May, he raised the question of the Demster Steamship 
Company having introduced lower wages for Indian seamen as compared to 
European ones. 

In June he spoke on a far more serious and emotive issue, asking the Under- 
secretary of State if the decision of the Appeal Court against 172 death 
sentences in the Chauri Chaura case had been given; and, if so, would he tell 
the House of the final verdict? And the chilling answer was that nineteen 
death sentences had been confirmed, that in 110 cases they were commuted to 
transportation for life, and that there were 38 acquittals. 

Some of the life transportations were later shortened to a specified number of 
years. Such was the fate of Indians who agitated in India for their freedom. I 
can just imagine the outcry in the UK press today if we read of such sentences 
being handed out in the Soviet Union against their freedom-loving dissidents. 
Anyway, Saklatvala at least gave the harsh and ignominious facts a public 
airing. 

[Editor’s note: On February 5th 1922, after three members of the Non- 
Cooperation Movement were killed by police in the town of Chauri Chaura in 
Uttar Pradesh, the police station was set on fire by protesters, killing 22 of the 
police occupants.] 

On a similar theme, Saklatvala asked the Under-Secretary of State for India 


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whether he would state the nature of the offence proved against, and date and 
term of sentence passed, on Lala Lajpat Rai, President of the 1st Trade Union 
Congress of India, whether he is now reported to be suffering from 
tuberculosis, and whether, bearing in mind this disease, his age, and his past 
great services to India, the government will grant a remission of the remainder 
of his sentence? The reply revealed that Mr Rai had been sentenced in March 
1922 to one year’s simple imprisonment, and to one year’s rigorous 
imprisonment under the Seditious Meetings Act, the sentences to run 
consecutively. And no, the noble Earl was not prepared to put in a plea for 
clemency. 

When pressed by another member, Earl Winterton said, “...If enquiries are to 
be made into the health of any one prisoner, there is no logical reason why 
they should not be made into the health of hundreds of others...” What an 
admission from a responsible Minister of a democratic British government, 
that so many Indians whose only crime was to demand the same freedom that 
Englishmen were so proud to enjoy, were languishing in Indian jails. 

Several Labour members spoke in support of Father’s plea but the noble Earl 
was adamant. Saklatvala had the last word: “Will the noble Lord consider that 
a sentence of one year’s penal servitude or simple imprisonment should not be 
permitted to be converted into sentence of death, if the state of the man’s 
health is as reported?” In fact, Mr Rai was released from prison on 16th 
August due to his ill health and, perhaps in part, to the intervention of 
Saklatvala and his fellow members in the House. 

[Editor’s Note: Lala Lajpat Rai led the special session of the Congress Party 
that launched the noncooperation movement. Imprisoned from 1921 to 1923, 
he was elected to the legislative assembly on his release. In 1928 he sustained 
serious injuries by the police when leading a non-violent protest against the 
Simon Commission and died less than three weeks later. His death 
anniversary (November 17th) is one of several days celebrated as Martyrs’ Day 
in India.] 

On the 27th June 1923 Earl Winterton asked the House to pass a Bill enabling 
the government of India to raise a loan in the UK for fifty million pounds to 
spend on the development of the Indian railways. 

Saklatvala pointed out that it was eventually the people of India who would 
thereby incur the responsibility for repayment of the loan; and, while the 


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railways were in public ownership, quite a few of them were managed by 
private companies acting as agents for the government of India. He spoke at 
some length and to forceful purpose against the Bill, which, of course, was 
carried anyway. 

During the course of the debate, he was, at the request of a Labour member, 
reminded by the Chairman that it was not in order for the issue of 
nationalisation to be discussed. Saklatvala said, politely, “I will follow the 
procedure you have been good enough to suggest.” His unfailing courtesy in 
the House was remarked on more than once; while he spoke fearlessly and 
honestly, he was invariably courteous; and while he himself was frequently 
subjected to jeers and schoolboy rudeness, he was never guilty of such 
ungentlemanly behaviour himself. 

On April 21st 1923, the Workers’ Weekly had carried an article headlined 
‘Indian Tax on Poverty’. It read: 

“The Indian budget this year revealed a deficit of 12 million pounds— 
this is largely due to the enormous expense of the Army (60% of the 
budget). The government intend to make up the deficit on next years 
estimates by doubling the salt tax, already one of the most oppressive 
taxes on the millions of poverty-stricken Indian peasants. Even the 
servile members of the Legislative Assembly refused to pass the tax, but 
the Viceroy, Lord Reading, has once more made use of his supreme 
dictatorial power, which allows him to override decisions of the 
Assembly if he thinks fit, and he has re-imposed the measure. Thus the 
mockery of the so-called reforms granted to India is again exposed...” 
Everyone who saw the film Gandhi will recall his dramatic march across the 
continent to the sea, followed by thousands of protesters against the tax; they 
all demonstrated their civil disobedience by making salt on the sea shore in 
contravention of the tax. They were unmercifully beaten by the police and 
soldiers. And many of the marchers, including prominent leaders, in the 
Indian political sphere, were imprisoned. This tax caused not only hardship 
but great unrest and agitation among millions of people. 

It was not till July 5th that Saklatvala made a major speech in the House on 
the subject. It was reported the next day by the Evening News, without any 
reference to the hardships of the Indian workers, but merely making frivolous 
fun of Saklatvala: 


246 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“There were superbly turbaned Indians in the Gallery; and it was 
reported that they had left their elephants in Palace Yard, grazing on the 
lawns— do elephants graze, or do they feed on buns only?— However, no 
doubt the police saw to that while, for the benefit of his countrymen, Mr 
Saklatvala made a speech full of curry, real hot stuff, charging the 
government with causing death, insanity and the worst kind of poverty 
among Indians.” 

This report was accompanied by a cartoon showing Saklatvala leaping in the 
air, brandishing his outstretched arms wildly above his head, with flushed face 
and lines radiating from his head suggesting the heat of his emotions. (When I 
was a little girl, people often remarked on my likeness to Father and they 
would say, “She’s just a little version of her Father!” And for years, I was 
convinced that I looked like the ‘little versions’ of Father as depicted in 
cartoons— so I had an anguished and unflattering view of what I looked like!) 
Saklatvala’s speech started off mildly enough. He pointed out that the India 
Office were reluctant to pass their work to the newly formed High Commission 
for India, thereby creating administrative confusion and dissipation of money. 
He said that gradualness would not work and that the responsibilities that 
were to be handed over should be handed over immediately. (Was he perhaps 
sending a little message to the Fabians within the Labour Party?) 

He went on to mention another injustice, “which the people of India have felt 
in a very small way, but there it is. I understand that the entire property 
belonging to the India Office has been obtained from monies paid by India, 
whereas no such charge has been levied for the Colonial Office on the 
Colonies; and when the India Office falls back on its normal political 
functions, to be carried on for this country, as it is now alleged, then I think 
due compensation ought to be paid for the property that the India Office will 
take over from the government of India completely under their own charge. In 
fact, if that had been done this year, the whole of the vexatious argument 
regarding the two and a half million pounds for salt would not have arisen.” 

He then once again described the unfairness of loans being raised in the name 
of the Indian people, who were totally ignorant about such matters, but who 
would one day be called upon to repay vast sums of money raised by outsiders 
in their name. 

“I think these people will be perfectly right, some day, in saying, ‘We 


247 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


know nothing about these loans. Somebody came to our country, raised 
these loans in our name, and spent them on themselves just as they 
pleased, and we cannot honourably or honestly be asked to repay these 
loans.’ It will create a very serious situation when the people of India do 
recover their consciousness, and, in view of this, not from any political 
motives, but in view of these ordinary standards of honour in business 
matters, the government of India must alter their methods of 
continually raising loans in Great Britain... there is one phase of life 
which the public politicians in Great Britain and India scarcely like to 
touch, but which brings the people of this country and the people of 
India into very intimate relationships. 

“There may be troubles in the Punjab and a few riots in the streets of 
India, and you believe that that is endangering the lives of some 
Britishers, but I would point out that hon members sitting in this House 
are themselves quite unconsciously involved in activities which 
endanger the lives of many more Britishers than a few revolutionaries in 
the Punjab can ever do. I am drawing attention to the entire industrial 
activity which is being carried on in India... 

“The noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State had occasion once or 
twice to tell us that the Trade Union Act is under consideration, that it is 
coming some day... but in the meantime I ask the Committee to give 
serious consideration to this close relationship of the ordinary daily lives 
of the working class people of Great Britain and the working class 
people of India... 

“I will give you one example. We have recently heard a good deal in this 
House of trouble in Dundee. This House has tried to find many 
solutions and to appoint an arbitration board to find out how the life 
standard of the people of Dundee can be maintained so that their 
women and children can at least have daily food, if nothing else, and 
that they can somehow or other manage to have a decent house in which 
to live. 

“This does not apply only to the workers of Dundee. It applies similarly 
to textile workers, to seamen, and colliers, and iron and steel workers, 
and people in the engineering trades. What is the position? In Bengal 
our British financial friends have raised 74 jute mills. They are quite 

248 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


welcome to do so. The Bengalis have a right to see these jute mills 
erected in their midst, and the financier has a perfect right to go 
anywhere and direct any factory, if the people are simple enough to 
allow him to do so, but the real position is this. 

“Only about 4 weeks ago, I minutely worked out the figures, taking the 
published reports of 41 concerns in this jute industry, every one of 
which is controlled by British firms... I have found that on a capital 
investment of £6,140,000 they earned, in the 4 years 1918-21, 
£22,900,000 as dividends and that those 41 jute mills had, besides their 
profits, set aside £19,000,000 as reserves. 

“The standard of wages in these jute mills never reached 5 shillings a 
week in the spinning department and never reached 10 shillings in the 
weaving department, and taking the Bengali output at only 1/3 (in 
reality it is 2/5) of that of the Scottish worker, the disparity of the wages 
is evident. 

“I can quite realise that this great jute industry may have increased the 
wealth of a few Scottish families... but does it not appear to members on 
the other side of the House that the position above means starvation for 
thousands of workers in Dundee and also for the workers of Bengal? Out 
of their low wages, the people in Bengal cannot have education, medical 
assistance or proper housing. The same with regard to the colliers...” 
Here the Chairman intervened, saying, “The hon member must connect this 
with the government of India. I do not know whether he suggests that the 
Secretary of State for India can reform the conditions of which he speaks.” 
Saklatvala replied with some heat: 

“I mean that the government of India, having granted concessions to 
merchants, protecting them with their Armies and Navies, at the same 
time have failed to introduce Trade Union legislation and trade union 
activities and the union standards, and so are responsible for this 
condition I will give you a more direct example. Take, for instance, the 
iron and steel industries here. 

“The government were bound, with regard to the giving of Indian 
orders, not to place orders for iron and steel materials where trade 
union wages were not paid. That condition automatically gets altered 
when the government of India puts orders with firms who pay one tenth 


249 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


or one twentieth of the wages that are trade union wages in this country. 
There is another direct responsibility upon the government of India. In 
India, the largest employer of labour, the biggest capitalist, is the 
government of India, and they themselves started miserably low wages. 


, Wx. 6AKLATVAT.A (Bottom*. N., Lob.) 
Mid be bold tb* flovornmeot ct IndU rrtrpoc- 
'ilblo to* tha long hours *od low wages of 
irxlun worker* in mtnra and fart orica — 4 con- 
dition of aJTair* which ptoduax] illiteracy nod 
lnaamtary Kenning In Jr.dU. nod, by ntuu 
of »uch "blackleg" cucipwtiticn, uncmplny 
.ineot and itorraUon in tba country- The 
C.<jvennn*ot. ta tba largest employe* of labour 
'and tho btggmt eap;taJist tn Indio, had act 
tbe bad example o! paying low wage*. Tlw 
people hod to work under a Wrotera todiw- 
truj ayatam and live under E attorn rondi- 
Uon» thot were throe thousand yearn old. Ho 
railed for a Co mulatto* of inquiry into the ute 
of tba worker* of India. In regard to the 
“It tax. be corteodod that tho fall in coc- 
•uaplion owing to the rise In price was leading 
to tho spread of leprogy. On remote tea- 
shores tfccrw wvt* mh^nnen m)hi, knowtnt 
"OttAW about tba ult tax lagMUtiou or 
tit* Viceroy, stooped their fish fa the *,» 
water to a«Jt them and then tpread them 
to dry on tba scads. and. to their coutmu- 
they ware fined lot smuggling rait with- 
out pcyla* tbe duty. (Laughter.) Than, was 
a disturbaiira in tho House recently on 
account of the infant mortality in KcnUsnd. 
Tim average rate of Infant mortality In British 
India wn* *06 pe* thousand, a* compared 
with MBety-oo* in U10 United Kingdom. 


Clipping: The Times, 6th July 1923 

“They set a bad example, they have maintained it, and have carried on 
the whole system as a practice. I ask the government of India to realise 
that, even if it does not matter to them, it does matter to thousands of 
working class people in this country that the standard of wages be not 
unequal, and I think it is most necessary and most important, in justice 
to the Indian investors, as well as to the British working classes, that a 
Committee of Investigation should be first appointed to find out the 
disparity of wages... 

“There is another serious consideration. The government of India was 
asked only last March by the people of India, at least for the sake of 
humanity and morality, to stop, in the Mining Act, 50,000 women with 
their infants going into the pits every day to work. The government of 
India has got another direct responsibility in the matter... 

“Here are the figures from the government of India’s statistics of infant 
mortality... In the northern Provinces, 216; Bengal, 185; Madras, 194; 
Punjab, 248; Bombay, 217; The Central Provinces, 227; Burma, 220; the 
whole average of British India being 206, compared with 97 in Scotland, 
and 91 for the United Kingdom. [These figures are per 1000 live 


250 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


births).] You cannot attribute it to climatic conditions... 

“There is a private and confidential report, which was published for 
private circulation only by Capt. E.D. Richards of the Calcutta 
Improvement Trust, in which it is stated that in certain wards the 
deaths of children up to 12 months old... from 1916-1919, were never 
less than 575, and reached as high as 680 [per 1000]. 

“These are not things which a responsible government can really pass 
over with the remark, ‘Well, these are Indian conditions...’ The people 
must have either an Eastern or a Western life, an agricultural peasant 
life or an industrial life; we cannot compel human beings to do work of 
different conditions, to live as they would live upon farms, where very 
little nervous or physical strain is required in their daily life. 

“This is the position, and I ask the noble Lord to set aside all humbug 
about liberal reform. It is all cant— there is no soul in these reforms 
either for the people of India or Britain; it is only political tactics, to 
spread salt on the tails of one or two Indian politicians.— The real 
reforms are these. Let us have a Committee of Investigation to find out 
how the working classes in India are living, and how the conditions are 
responsible for want of education, want of sanitation and human 
dignity, and also responsible for starvation and unemployment in this 
country by the blacklegging of labour for large contracts. 

“The other topic discussed was the Salt Tax. I remember a number of 
pleas put forward by the noble Lord. Of course, he was not responsible; 
he was telling us what the Viceroy told him. If we were to believe his 
whole series of pleas, and that it does not matter whether you double or 
treble the Salt Tax in India, then we have got to disbelieve a dozen 
British statesmen and Viceroys who have said horrible things about the 
cruelties of imposing the Salt Tax. I believe the noble Lord [Curzon] who 
now presides over the destinies of the Foreign Office, when he played 
the Super-Viceroy of India, considered himself very happy that he found 
it possible to reduce that Salt Tax, and laid it down that it should be the 
marking-stone for the future of British Policy to remove the Salt Tax as 
hastily as possible. 

“Salt is not in the nature of raspberries and cream— No human being 
would take more salt than is necessary, and the noble Lord has got in his 


251 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


own official record substantial statistics, worked out for over 50 years, 
to show that whenever the Salt Tax was high, the consumption of salt 
per head went down low. 

“You do not want us to believe that when salt is cheap people eat 
handfuls of it. Perhaps it is never cheap enough to enable people to have 
a sufficient quantity at any time, but when cheap they take as near the 
necessary quantity as possible, and when it becomes costly they have to 
abstain from it. That is the only conclusion and I think the noble Lord 
must have in his archives a report from one of the Commissioners of 
Bombay... in which he, after due investigation, found that when the 
consumption of salt is curtailed it spread the horrible scourge of leprosy 
in those districts... 

“I read a telegram in the Daily Herald that there is another conflict in 
Bengal already. In putting additional taxation on salt, the government of 
Bengal find it necessary to tighten the inspection against smuggling... 
but fishermen, and ignorant villagers who do not know what is the Salt 
Tax or what is legislation, or what is the Viceroy, go round the coast line, 
and on the sea board perhaps cure their fish by means of salt water. 
“That is a contravention of the Salt Tax; they are smugglers and are 
punished. All along the sea board you have got thousands of inspectors 
who bully the poor villagers and make their lives miserable. People 
living on the sea shore often innocently get salt water and boil a few 
mangolds, and they are charged immediately with having smuggled salt 
without paying duty on it... 

“You created an innocent Legislative Assembly, and you want this 
House, by confirming the erratic action of the Viceroy, to tell the people 
of India that all the members of the Legislative Assembly are brainless 
chaps who know nothing about the people and know nothing about salt, 
and that we here are the clever people who know everything about 
everything. That is the message which you want to send forth. You want 
to say to the Legislative Assembly, ‘It is not your job to know whether 
poor people are able to buy salt or not; we know much better here in 
Westminster. 

“It is not for you to know whether the Salt Tax is good for you or bad for 
you. You represent your people, but that is nothing. When we take it in 


252 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


our heads to ride rough shod over you, we shall do it, because we know 
everything under the sun, and you people do not know anything about 
your own country.’ What is behind it all? The hon member for Derby 
(Mr C.Roberts) told us that the Indian extremists, of whom I am proud 
to be one, and the Conservative die-hards are sometimes akin. It may be 
so, because we both like to look at facts as facts, and do not wrap them 
up in diplomatic language... 

“The action of the Viceroy in going over the heads of the people... is 
wrong in principle, and... it is a principle with which the House of 
Commons... should never associate itself, any more than with the idea 
that the dictation of the Crown is always superior to the wishes and 
intelligence of the people. Yet we are going to do this. Why? 

“I hope that members of the Committee will not misunderstand me. I 
have no bitterness in my heart. I wish to see life as it stands... I agree 
with every member on this side of the House, that if it were possible to 
let the Viceroy obey the people of India, it should be done, but I doubt 
whether it is ever possible for any one country to dominate another 
country and to send out a Viceroy and to say: ‘Go there and obey the 
people of that country.’ 

“Such a thing is impossible. I do not believe in political phraseology 
which is used for the sake of convenience— Dominion Home Rule, and 
this and that. It may all look very well on paper. How can you expect a 
self-respecting community to take charge of its country’s purse and 
affairs and to say, ‘I will preserve all this, and manage all this, for the 
benefit of the people of Britain in the first instance, and for the benefit 
of the people of India in the second instance, if possible.’ Such a thing is 
unnatural and not to be expected... 

“There is one solution and only one solution, for the future. Why not 
look at it like bold and brave people, who are conscious of the future? 
There are many results in our present life and constitution and 
civilisation to be ashamed of... 

“Not politicians should count, but humanity. If you once start a scheme 
by which the workers and peasants of India enjoy the same standard of 
life as the workers and peasants of Europe and of America, you will have 
abolished every need for sending out a Viceroy either with a mandate to 


253 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


obey the people of India or with a mandate to obey the people of Britain 
against the interests of the people of India. 

“You are on the horns of a dilemma. When the day has come that the 
peasants and the working classes have established a uniform standard 
of life and political rights throughout the civilised world, the working- 
class international organisations will arrange our international life.” 
Thus Saklatvala combined his pleas for Indian freedom with a proclamation of 
his own unshakeable conviction that international communism was the only 
answer to the exploitation of man by man. He was performing a double duty; 
and at the same time, he was expressing views which he personally, 
passionately, believed in. It was his last major speech in the House before the 
long summer recess. 

Even though he was hardly ever absent from debates while the House was in 
session, Saklatvala continued to travel up and down the country at weekends, 
holding meetings and addressing large and enthusiastic crowds. He took part 
in demonstrations and mass meetings in Trafalgar Square, he held regular 
monthly assemblies in Battersea where he reported on the events in 
Parliament to his constituents; he visited universities and spoke to students, 
particularly to Indian students, clearly with the intention of passing on the 
message of communism to them; he hoped that they would actively engage in 
the cause when they finally returned home and form a strong Communist 
Party there to fight for India’s freedom, and, more specifically, for freedom 
from exploitation of the working and peasant class from whatever quarter 
such exploitation might come, whether from British or from Indian capitalism. 
For Saklatvala, national freedom was not enough, he demanded freedom for 
the workers from oppression from any masters, be they British or Indian; he 
foresaw that they would need protection against exploitation even under 
Indian rule, so long as an Indian government remained a capitalist one. When 
one looks at the poverty persisting among the masses in India today, more 
than 40 years after independence, one must concede that he perhaps had a 
point. 


254 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


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Clipping: Pamphlet from the Workers’ Welfare League of India 
Not all his meetings were without dramatic incident. The Oxford Times 
reported on June 1st 1923, under a headline ‘Mr Saklatvala MP at the Town 
Hall— Alleged Kidnapping Plot’. 

“Mr Saklatvala, the Indian socialist MP, addressed a public meeting in 


255 





THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the Town Hall on Friday evening under the auspices of the City Labour 
Party... In declaring the meeting closed, the Chairman asked that a 
number of friends should stay behind as... there was a ‘rag’ on foot and 
Mr Saklatvala might be kidnapped in a red Rolls-Royce car. A number 
of Indian students and members of Ruskin complied with the request 
and Mr Saklatvala had a strong body-guard as he walked to Ruskin 
College where he spent the night.” 

Saklatvala’s impassioned speech and the questions that followed, were 
reported in full. 

[Editor’s note: ‘rag’ refers to a prank or stunt by students.] 

This threat of kidnapping was not an isolated incident— such menaces were 
made several times, but there was always a willing contingent of strong men to 
protect him and sometimes he was whisked away through the back doors of 
halls down little side-streets, sometimes on the pillion of a motorbike. I do not 
think that either of my parents felt at all alarmed by these bullying tactics. My 
mother was even less impressed than Father, finding such histrionic behaviour 
too silly to be taken seriously— she treated threats very much as she treated 
squabbles between the boys at home, and remained her usual placid and 
unruffled self. And we all lived in the shelter of her calm and were 
consequently blissfully untouched by all the dramas. 

Saklatvala was a tireless propagandist in the Communist cause. He was 
seldom home and when he was, he was almost always entertaining political 
friends, Indian journalists, doctors, businessmen. Our house was always full of 
strangers (well, strangers to us, that is; all, of course, well known to Father). 
They were entertained to breakfast, lunch, tea, supper. We all took it for 
granted that we sat quietly by while political discussions went on around us. 
When he was at home at weekends, his old friend Kaikoo Mehta was a 
frequent and welcome visitor; he brought jollity and light-hearted chatter, 
social, frivolous, non-political— we were all happy to see him. He would take us 
on to Hampstead Heath and play cricket and tennis with us and generally 
entertain us. 

Another frequent and welcome visitor was Dr Gotla, another old boyhood 
friend of Father’s from his Bombay days. He had a very vivacious English wife 
and three children, the youngest, Mickey, a boy of my age. We all enjoyed each 
other’s company and visited each other’s homes. Mummy and Mrs Gotla 


256 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


enjoyed days out together and their close friendship lasted through to old age 
and ended only when Mrs Gotla died at about 80 years old. This personal 
warmth and affection between the two families thrived in spite of acute 
political and social differences. 

Dr Gotla, along with many other socially successful Parsis, thought that 
Father’s concerns for working people were something of a joke. I remember 
once when I was in Dr Gotla’s car with all his family we passed one of the new 
complexes of slum-clearance flats; Mickey, the young son, said incredulously, 
“Fancy building flats with balconies for poor people!” But I had learned at a 
very young age to keep outrage and indignation to myself until I reached the 
private haven of home, when I could explode to Mother and liberate my 
frustrations. Love and friendship had to transcend such differences. 

The house was not only open to outsiders and political allies, but we nearly 
always had one of Mummy’s numerous relatives staying with us, Grandma or 
one of the sisters with their children. So, although Father was so often away, 
we were never lonely. I loved all my mother’s sisters and all my cousins and 
looked forward to their visits and dreaded their departures— and Father was 
always more than happy to have them around— there was never any sign of 
music-hall-joke, in-law tension; we were a happy tribe. 

During the summer while the House was in recess, Saklatvala and Walton 
Newbold were invited to Moscow to a private meeting with members of the 
Communist International. It was to be Father’s first visit, and he took my 
mother with him. When I say he was invited, it is probably an understatement 
—I imagine it was more an order than an invitation. The same went for 
Father’s invitation to Mother to accompany him— I don’t think she was given 
any choice. Father sent her off early in the summer to Dymchurch to look for 
cheap accommodation for the family. Sally’s sister Annie was to be asked to 
come to Dymchurch with her daughter, my close and much-loved cousin Lily. 
Annie was to look after all of us while both our parents were in Soviet Russia; 
they were to visit the Ruhr on the way back, for Father to see for himself the 
sorry plight of the German people. 

It is likely that the two communists who were members of Parliament were to 
discuss with members of the Communist International exactly what their role 
in the British Parliament should be, what strategy was to be followed in 
relation to the colonies and imperialism, and what other functions they might 


257 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


be able to fulfil. It was Father’s first direct contact, though doubtless he had 
had similar consultations at second-hand in London. It is certain that 
Saklatvala did not merely receive orders and instructions, but contributed his 
own ideas, particularly where Indian and imperialist problems were concerned 
and his expertise on this subject was recognised and appreciated. At that time, 
an Indian communist, M.N. Roy, was on the Executive Committee of the 
Communist International; but he and Father were not always in agreement. 
During this period, the Communists were anxious to unite with the Labour 
Party (although the Labour Party were not willing to work with them and time 
after time rejected their applications for affiliation). The Communist Party 
sought political co-operation of all socialists to fight capitalism as a combined 
force. The Labour Party seems always to have viewed acceptance of members 
of the Communist Party, not as co-operation on the part of the Communists so 
much as infiltration. There was always the contention that all communists 
took their orders from Moscow and that, therefore, communists were anti- 
British. I really do not agree that this was in fact the case. Just as members of 
many nations come together at United Nations Assemblies for mutual 
discussion, and as members of the EEC [now the EU] discuss economic and 
political matters, so I think members of the Communist International 
discussed policies and events. 

One has to agree that the Moscow voice was probably stronger than most 
other voices, but I am sure that Communists were able to put their views on 
many subjects to the Communist International, even if they might not always 
have been acted upon. But the idea that all Communists put love of Russia 
before love of Britain is a fostered error; the difference between traditional 
patriots and Communist patriots is that Communists accept that one must 
love all British people, not just the ruling class; they recognise that working 
class people are as British as the aristocracy (perhaps more purely so!) and to 
work for the working class Britisher is just as patriotic as to work for the 
master class Britisher. 

Anyway, when Saklatvala went to Moscow on 27th August 1923, he went for 
consultations and discussions, and not merely to receive orders. It was also 
Father’s first opportunity to witness communism as then practiced in Soviet 
Russia. 


258 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Imperial and Foreign 
News Items. 

Stgaor IXiowoSni ho* returned to Bods. 

Mr. SakfoiTsU, the Ltbour ILF, ba« 

arriv«! in M cocow. 

■ 

Clipping: The Times, 28th August 1923 

There was at the time a big exhibition in Moscow of Russian handicrafts and, 
of greater interest, of the progress being made in agriculture. He was more 
favourably impressed than was my mother. Mother, who hated being parted 
from her children more than anything, was appalled at the idea of creches 
being used for children while their mothers went to work (they have become 
an accepted part of British life now, of course, but then they were unheard of). 
When she saw that workers’ families were housed in what had been 
sumptuously furnished and beautifully appointed flats, and saw them with 
enamel washing-up bowls on buhl escritoires, her sensibilities were offended; 
whereas Father saw all this as a way of giving working people reasonably 
comfortable homes to live in instead of the hovels to which they had been 
relegated under Tsarist despotism. 

My Band of Hope mother was scandalised by the drunkenness, while Father 
chose not to notice it. Knowing that his wife was likely to be uninhibited in her 
criticisms of the regime, he told her bluntly that it was he who had been to 
observe conditions and that she had gone merely to keep him company, and 
that therefore she should refrain from airing her views in public— it was his 
views that were sought, not hers. While I have to deplore this muzzling of 
female expression (especially from a man who publicly upheld the rights of 
women!), I have to concede that the Communist International would not have 
taken kindly to Mother’s views being broadcast. 

For the rest of us, our parents’ travels gave us our first ever family sea-side 
holiday. Our landlady was not over-generous. The curtains were torn and none 
too clean; she had a little toddling boy who never wore trousers or knickers, 
but was always clad in a tatty old jersey, its front and back pinned together 
between his legs with a giant safety-pin as a concession to modest 
respectability. The food was apparently awful (though at 4 years old I was too 
young to notice)— one day when the meat was even tougher than usual, my 
outspoken sister said Mrs Clayton should have used the meat for curtains and 
stewed the curtains for lunch. The landlady was listening outside the door and 


259 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


created a great hullabaloo; Aunty Annie was embarrassed but we all thought it 
was great fun, and that Candy had scored a point, since her remark (which we 
all thought so very witty!) had been overheard. 

I was introduced to the lures of capitalism in the shape of a penny-dip in the 
local sweet-shop; Lily and I came rushing home and I proclaimed excitedly, “I 
gave him a little tiny white penny and he’s given me all these big brown ones 
and our presents as well!” (An old-fashioned sixpence had yielded four 
pennies and two goes in the penny dip). With all the excitement of the sea- 
side, and having all the family and Auntie Annie and Lily together, our parents 
were really not missed. And on their return we enjoyed having them to 
ourselves without the intrusion of friends, either social or political; just for a 
few days Father was just a Father and not a politician— and it was a most 
joyful holiday for us all. 

Mr. J. T. W. KentrtM. M.P., Owmmroiit 
rr«i=W lor the NoUicrwtU Diikilot of 
UlMfio*, *ml Mr. S. fuUnfvulA. M.P.. Latear 
im<ir.K»r for Battonnv, urn t-;..- :Uuj; !rw dty* 
n Oiiogor, and will procrei! to tl>» Ruhr. 

Clipping: The Times, 10th September 1923 
The parliamentary recess ended on Tuesday 13th November, when Stanley 
Baldwin explained to the House that, after profound consideration on the 
problem of unemployment, he felt he could not steer the country through the 
winter without using “an instrument which I could not use having regard to 
the pledge given a year ago by Mr Bonar Law”; he needed to abandon the 
policy of free trade and to adopt a protectionist policy. Parliament was, 
therefore, to be dissolved on Friday 16th November 1923. There was to be a 
General Election, and Father’s first term as an MP was brought to an early 
close. 


260 



CHAPTER 13 


A Narrow Defeat 

Narrow defeat in the General Election of 1923. The first 
Labour government of Ramsey MacDonald. Labour Party 
rejection of affiliation to the Communist Party. 


Saklatvala had been unanimously selected as the Labour candidate for 
Battersea North. In his Election Address he wrote: 

“I enclose herewith the Labour Party’s Official Manifesto, which I pledge 
to support, with the only criticism that that is the least that one can 
demand under the present conditions of life all over the world, while our 
moral instincts, which transcend political conveniences, require us to go 
further. If re-elected, I shall, as usual, submit myself to you at least once 
every month to receive your instructions and to give attention to your 
wishes...” 









mmJ •Ji.Hrid «.<• fca *v‘-J 1mm mm 
)»«•/ mVIi mU UO mnJ/ •P*» Ml 
*4 %n fad f • » • • fd mm Vi (1»» 

Vi— •• *h.I lUU 


Clipping: Saklatvala’s Election Address 

But, once again, he proclaimed with pride his adherence to the Communist 
Party, saying: 

“...I must ask your permission to say a word about my undoubted 
membership of the Communist Party, as for the last 12 months our 
opponents have been assiduously working a stunt under the vague term 
‘Bolshevism’. 

“Last week Edwin Percival Power, age 20, a cabinet maker, of Chester 


261 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Street, Bethnal Green, through depression from continued 
unemployment, took poison and died in Epping Forest, faithfully 
clutching his young sweetheart’s photograph. A letter found on the body 
by the police read, ‘I have come out in the open to die— out in the 
glorious air away from the paltry deceit and strife of the world. It will be 
a merciful release to die to ease the aching of my heart. May the Lord 
have mercy on my soul and receive me into the kingdom of Heaven.’ 
“Leibknecht, Rosa Luxembourg, Eisner, Vorovsky were assassinated by 
Fascist hands, but Edwin Power and his like are daily driven to despair 
and death by masters who shut their factories, and where Society has no 
right to take charge of them and work them. 

“The new ILP and Labour Party International, as well as the Moscow 
International, are described as anti-British, alien influences. When 
militarist jingoes of all nations work together it is called, ‘Council of 
War’, when intriguing politicians of all nations conspire together, they 
are called ‘Council of Ambassadors’; when armed financiers meet 
together to rob unarmed nations they are called the ‘League of Nations’; 
when workers of all nations meet and work together, they are called 
‘Alien Bolsheviks’. 

“We must have uniform standards for the workers all over Europe and 
Asia, and we can neither leave the Communists or the right wing trade 
unionists or the Social Democrats to fight their own battles singly. 
Before the final and universal success we shall all have to get a united 
plan of action.” 

On this same theme, earlier in the address he asked, “How many Liberal and 
Conservative investors are every day using British wealth, originally produced 
by British workers, in countries abroad, where they can find human beings to 
work at cheaper rates and in a more docile manner? With British money and 
with British foremen that they took abroad, why did they not take British 
standards of wages also?...” 

Of the war debt he wrote, “Liberals boast that free trade financed the last war. 
This is untrue. The war was not carried on from accumulated profit made in 
the past. Instead, to finance the war, the workers of this country are called 
upon to pay £1,000,000 per day indefinitely.” (He was alluding to the interest 
payable on the national war debt.) 


262 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


The Evening Standard on 26th November 1923, announcing Saklatvala’s 
candidature wrote: 

“In North Battersea Mr Saklatvala is, in many respects, without a 
parallel. He is an Indian by birth, and his antecedents neither suggest 
nor explain his revolutionary doctrines. His brother, for instance, is 
President of the Mill Owners Association in Bombay.” 

It was, perhaps, due to such references and frequent accusations in the 
Commons about his being part of a successful, capitalist family, that led him to 
include this in his election address: “I would here warn you against the 
attempt to misrepresent my position in the Labour world, by identifying me 
with others of a like name connected with finance in India and in America.” 
One of the most interesting events in Saklatvala’s campaign, in the light of 
present-day problems of racism in our multi-racial society, was a clear 
indication at a public meeting that such general antipathy towards Indians did 
not exist at that time. The Liberal candidate, Mr Hogbin, accused ‘supporters 
of Saklatvala’ of rowdyism and threats against his person; he claimed that the 
intimidations were such as to make it too dangerous for him to address any 
more meetings in person and he therefore appointed his agent, Captain A.P. 
Godfrey, to speak for him. (If such threats had in fact been made, and there 
was never any evidence or proof that they had been, it might seem somewhat 
cowardly to expose his agent to the abuse rather than face it himself). 

The right-wing press upheld the view that supporters of Saklatvala were guilty; 
the left-wing press, notably the Daily Herald, thought the whole thing was a 
stunt to try to discredit Saklatvala. 


263 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


THE “REDS” OF 
BATTERSEA. 


UNIONIST-LIBERAL 

COALITION. 


CONTESTS IN KENT 
AND BUCKS. 

(FROM Ol k unx'IAt CXIlLlUCSrOKOCKT.} 
BaltetK* is one at th* f*w “ Fteil '• <vti: re- 
in the London ares, and the North Division 
returned to Parliament lost year an itidiim 
Cotnrrumist, who Etood aj the Labour Party 
candi date. 

Mr. Saktatraln. ip the Labour nominee. 

Writing in the ^Ynriccrs’ IFstAiy a few months 
a**i, while still oeeuiiyinij a seat in the Hone 
of Common*, he said: " The British Ertipirt 
us mod: up of (uc aristocratic and cumnir; dirty 
doss of Orvat Britain, who will assail anyone's 
country any time." His pernkrinns influence 
has crept like duek-oeed nmaryr a larg* portion 
of the electors, whose discontent has hoon 
created or f«I by unemployment, and ll)«re is 
urtp-ct reason in the public intercut why it 
should be checked. It must be said that the 
other perilous of th* constituency have been 
laxjotly to blame loc the present situation. While 
the revolutionary dement has been active: 
amone the etcetera and at the pall, thousands 
of others lu-.ve been apathetic and have ab- 
atainrd from voting- - 


Both the Liberal rnd L’nianist Parties appear 
at last U> be awoke to the necessity of Aiing 
soenethinc. and ore mnkinp a determined eltort 
j lo secure the constitution*! representation of 
rite epnstitutaiey. At the election last v«ar M». 
S.tltJaival* received 11.311 voU*. ucaiict 
«*st for the Xatiomt Liberal and Liberal eaiaii* 
dntc*. Mr. H. C. ITocbin. the Xntionnl Liberal 
nominee In that cke-tian. hop now been 
nominated *r the United Lilieial candidate, and 
no the local Unionist leaders have issued an 
I a )*I* - ol to their followers to support him, on tlie 
j £ round that he is the constitutional candidate. 

I the teak of the combined parties outfit not to 
j be an impossible one. 

In the 1322 election ns many os 17.000 
I electors abstained from voting. approiehirn; * 

! half of the entire electorate, This tv as, no doubt. 

1 due very larcely to the differences in the Liberal 
Party, which hod prrvkousl.r for many yeuis 
, Secured the representation ol the district. The 
P*Hv *kw hope 1 a pnll their full strength, aihJ 
, abould v.-m if Lifer-tl apotiiy does not cot ne to 
the aid of tlieir apponont* 

Mr. H ok b*ii lias put the qneetkui of the Con- 
stxtntkin in jtlic iMvfavtnt c»f liis addw, adi) 
s*y» that the threat ireuc which the electors 
lime to decide is “ whether you will have Con- 
Mi lot Junn.1 Government and maintain law mid 
order, or submit to the forces r«f revolution and 
j disorder.” 

Ifar tne rest. I*f pratniwm to “support «urh 
I meapims as will, untu sueli time as Europe is again 
j >/»■ jimeetu! ttu.Hua terms. and nictour** have 
| -nmu steblltanS, lirirw immediate nl'mf to neem- 
I I'loyment." H« rabsures tlie Ubrtal racial policy 
w ort'OKJ to pivicr Mr- IViJilivh: “a blank cheque " 
on tlie question of j.rot. rii.n, aid ike 

j lxfUt ihr.t free trade ip it. hmrf. means oS kuiping 
| ill lie vulmm><)itics of U£» nit tlie lowest level, 
j Mr. _SakTa{ vela’s eleetinn address is a very 
i mild document, bnt his speeches are of the 
I wild Coititnujiistic type, 


Clipping: The Times, 29th November 1923 
Saklatvala himself issued a leaflet which he distributed to audiences at his 
meetings; he also sent an ample supply of the leaflets to Mr Hogbin to give out 
at his meetings also. It was addressed to ‘Battersea Comrades’ and stated: 

“Making a noise or causing a disturbance at Meetings of our Political 
Opponents is not in keeping with the traditions of Battersea where the 
people are ever ready to listen to all kinds of opinion. 

“Many Elections have been won by Candidates in the past as a result of 
unfair treatment given to them at Public Meetings. I strongly advocate a 
fair hearing for and a calm discussion with everybody who wishes to 
express or explain his opinions. I strongly urge upon all to preserve the 
fair name of Battersea, and to be calm and well-conducted at all 
Meetings. 


264 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“Do not let me appeal to you in vain. Saklatvala” 

The Daily Herald reported that Saklatvala thought it wrong to hold, at such 
times as these, Party meetings to be addressed by representatives of one side 
only: “He invites Conservatives and Liberals to attend his meetings and 
address his rallies. He asks for similar privileges in return.” As a result of this 
policy, Saklatvala and Captain Godfrey, (Mr Hogbin’s Election Agent) were 
addressing a joint meeting in Battersea, immediately after the distribution of 
Saklatvala’s exhortation to the voters to give everyone a fair hearing. Captain 
Godfrey first referred to the “splendid sportsmanship” shown by Saklatvala. 

Election Nows Items 

Ubt’nli mod Cot>*-rTaliv«i In the UuuSdj 
WvWbo an> codbtnia* to <k!eot tb* Socialite. 

Labour candidate. Mr. A. J. Bcnaatt. 

Ur. RiU.it vnl» hi reported to bare aBrnxt 
tlia bmpitallty at )u» platJorm to (liber (la 
Liberal at Conrervithc candidate, Miuricf 
tbrm a (nir bearioc. 

Clipping: The Times, 4th December 1923 
“But,” he added, “I have to confess to having an instinctive preference for an 
Englishman.” Whereupon there was general uproar, the audience rose to their 
feet, “Withdraw!” “Shame!” “You’re asking for it!” and “What about Lady 
Astor?” (Who was a non-coloured but most colourful foreigner by birth) were 
some of the remarks distinguishable through the din, which continued until 
Mr Saklatvala himself intervened. In answer to the general clamour Captain 
Godfrey assured everyone that he had intended no offence and that if his 
remark had caused offence, he withdrew it. How wonderful it would be were 
such strong and wholesome reactions to be found in an audience today. 

Early in the evening on Polling Day, 6th December, before the results had 
been declared, Saklatvala attended a big rally of the ILP in the Queen’s Hall, 
where he received a resounding ovation. 

But his good fortune was not to hold and he lost the seat by 186 votes. Hogbin 
polled 12,527 and Saklatvala received 12,341 votes. It had been a hard-fought 
campaign and the gap was narrow, but the result was a bitter blow to 
Saklatvala and the Communist Party. Their were rowdy scenes at Battersea 
Town Hall when the four candidates (for South and North Battersea) appeared 
on the balcony of the Town Hall and, later, in the Council Chamber. The Daily 
Telegraph reported that: 

“Mr Saklatvala, attempting to pour oil on the troubled waters, 


265 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


thereupon appealed to all his friends present to understand that in a 
parliamentary Election someone had to win and someone else had to 
lose. Mr Hogbin had his disappointment 12 months ago. He (Mr 
Saklatvala) did not hide the fact that when, after hard work and great 
stress, a man lost an election, he must feel disappointed, but that need 
not make him bitter.” 


After the election, Ramsey MacDonald was to form the first Labour 
government. Reginald Bishop, a close associate and Father’s secretary, has 
been quoted as saying that Saklatvala came under great pressure from the 
parliamentary Labour Party at that time. They not only sought his advice on 
India but apparently proffered all sorts of allurements with promises of high 
office if he would renounce his membership of the Communist Party and 


wholeheartedly and unreservedly toe the Labour Party line. 


LABOUR ELECTION 
TACTICS. 

ROWDYISM IN SOUTH 
LONDON. 


LIBERAL AND UNIONIST 
VICTIMS. 

(fltOM oun SPECIAL CO&HCSPOXDE3CT.) 

The (okm of disorder are conducting 
wh»i appear* to bo aa orrgamwKl syetem 
of disturbance in some of the South 
London Divisions. The methods adopted 
in constituaneine wide apart ore similar, 
end, particularly in North Battersea, the 
main issue before the country is almost 
lost in a struggle to secure Constitutional 
representation. 

Whoa writing last week about the 
conditions in North Battersea, I pointed 
out that Mr. Hogbin, tho Liberal can- 
didate, hod told tho electors tint l)» 
great question they had to decide was 
whether they would have Constitutional 
government and maintain law and order, 
or submit to the forces of revolution and 
j disorder. Mr. Hogbin is receiving the 
full support of both tbe Constitutional 
parties m the division. He has shown 
great courage in his fight against the 
revolutionary element, led by Mr. Xoii&t- 
vala. the Indian Communist, with the 
1 result that be has been seriously I 
j threatened by desperate gangs , and has I 
been compelled to receive pouoo proteo* 

1 tion. | 


All the Liberal meetings in tho division 
have been cac celled, and it will probably 
be impossible for Mr. Hogbin to conduct 
his canvass any further. The fear is tliat 
many of tho electors may be prevented 
| by terror from voting, bet it is clear that 
Liberals and Unionists have tlie power 
to reject the so-called Labour candidate 
if they ran only be got to poll something 
Uke tlueir full strength. It is this fact, no 
doubt, that has induced the “ Beds ” 
to spread terror in the division. 

In other constituencies the disorder 
has been aimed at Unionist candidates. 
Dome Helen Gwyr.r.n Vaughan is running 
Mr. Ammon, the Labour nominee, who 
was returned last year by the narrow 
majority of 254, very close in North 
Camberwell, and has an excellent chance 
o! securing tbe cent if aha has fair play. 
This she is not getting. Communist 
hands, composed mainly of young men. 
disturb her meetings, but she has tackled 
her task fwirleealy and with great spirit. 


Clipping: The Times, 5th December 1923 


266 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Personally I do not think that any such inducements would be considered by 
Father to be a temptation or a pressure. He was being promised gifts for which 
he had no use and which did not tempt him at all. It was like offering a 
succulent steak to a vegetarian— they offered merely what he did not want. He 
wanted a free India and a communist India, and nothing short of that would 
satisfy him. He also wanted international communism and was determined to 
remain politically and morally free to preach his personal, communist gospel. 
Like most left-wing socialists, Father became totally disillusioned by Ramsay 
MacDonald. It was said that on one occasion, listening to one of MacDonald’s 
orations, Jimmy Maxton was actually crying and was heard to mutter, 
“Bastard!” under his breath. Beatrice Webb said of him that “He was a good 
substitute for a Leader.” In fairness to MacDonald, it has to be remembered 
that he formed a government without having a clear majority in the House. 
Asquith said, “If a Labour government is ever to be tried in this country it 
could hardly be tried under safer conditions.” 

In an issue of The Labour Monthly in 1924, Lenin described MacDonald as 
using “smooth, melodious, banal, and socialist-seeming phraseology which 
serves in all developed capitalist countries to camouflage the policy of the 
bourgeoisie inside the Labour Movement.” 

r"TKT other changes have tnkea place I 
in divisions which were represented by 
Liberals and Labour members. It wiil 
bo remembered that in North Battersea, 
the Unionists decided to support Mr. 

Hogbio, the Liberal candidate, in order 
to secure the defeat of Mr. Sa List vela, the 
Indian Communist, who sat os a Labour 
member in tbe lost Parliament. Mr. 

H ogbin ha* item returned n ith • majority 
ot 186. Labour has gained from 

Clipping: The Times, 8th December 1923 
But a stronger leader and a more wholeheartedly dedicated socialist could 
certainly have achieved more. And Labour Policy on the Colonies was little 
better, in Saklatvala’s view, than the Tory one. The Labour Secretary of State 
for India, Lord Olivier, was a Fabian and Saklatvala was totally out of 
sympathy with him. Saklatvala made this clear when he addressed the 24th 
Annual Conference of the Labour Party. In the report of that Conference it is 
stated that Mr Saklatvala complained: 

“That no mention was made in the Report of the replies which were 
given to the deputations to the India Office. The Indian Labour 


267 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Problem, he submitted, had a great bearing on the progress as well as 
the safety of the Trade Union Movement in this country. In this respect 
the splendid case that was made out by the deputation was quoted, but 
there was not one single word as to what the India Office had to say in 
return. Very important suggestions were made to the India Office and it 
was pointed out that miners in India were working at very low wages, 
and that a very large number of women were employed underground. 
And yet they were told from time to time that Welsh coal was no longer 
in demand because foreign coal could be sold in certain markets at to 
shillings a ton cheaper. 

“Throughout the whole industrial movement in India cruel, inhuman 
treatment was meted out to Indian workers. The deputation demanded 
from the Labour government that they should appoint a Commission to 
go out to India to examine the whole affair, but they were not told in this 
report what had happened or what the answer would be. There was no 
mention made in the report of the 2 boys shot down during the mills 
strike, nor of the trial and imprisonment of many people. The whole 
thing was a conspiracy against the workers both of India and of Great 
Britain.” 

As an Indian communist working politically in England, which was the centre 
of the British Empire and the seat of its government, Saklatvala had an 
important and personal role to play in the Communist Party of Great Britain 
and in the Communist International. He certainly helped to create and foster a 
Communist Party in India. This work continued even when he ceased to be a 
member of Parliament; indeed, if anything, his propaganda and meetings up 
and down the country were carried on more vigorously than ever when he was 
freed from his duties as a member of the House of Commons. 


268 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


VISCOUNT CURZON ON SOCIALISM. 


A r»vn*rkab** imwiitig ««» held at the 
J Bfittl'Miu Tmwu Hall uu Friday, toh*n n»pw- 
smtatlvcs of all shade* of public thought were 
among those on the platform. They tecdudesl 
Tasoount Canon. ConsrrvatiTc M.P. for South 
Battersea. Mr. H. C. Hog bln. Idhensl M.P. for , 
Xorth Battersea, and Mr. F. SokUtwIa. Thai 
subject diwnitard was " The Socialist Govern- 
ment in Theory and Practice. ” Viacom 
Cp**on, referring to Use programmesi of tha I 
Conservative and Labour Parties, inquire*] if 
Use Labour Party could point to a single 
mnatnuotlve item that they hail introduced 
since they came into power which had put a 
aingte man or woman into work. Till! McKenna 
<1 utwo were to be don* away with. He quoted 
the words of the member of the Labour Party 
who in lh* Houaa of Commons Inquired, 
“ If we remove three dutiee, where ate tbs 
man to go In order to get employment ? " 

Thare aim aoana slight tni*cru|iii(>ci at this, 

; and ooc man called out, " The worthouss." 

** The Socialist Party," said l,oed Curron, “ is 
founded on misery and discontent. " H« 

added that Ussy wanted to destroy iiiiliwtry 
in order to notions It re M at a knock-out price. 
Mr. Hoobux, who followed, pointed out that 
not ooo word had been said about the capital 
levy since the Socialist Government came Into 
power. By this time the gentlemen who were 
going to impose ths capital levy were 13,000 
| a year men. Mr. Saklatvaia, who made the 
filial speech, referred to tha McKenna duties, 
ft foreigner* sent more motor-cars hero. h» 
said, they would rail far more British goods 
In return. The British nation did not live 
by the motor trwdu sloes. Mr. Mak Patiala 
ufckde an attack on the bousing syttem. 


Clipping: The Times, 19th May 1924 

Nor did he neglect the constituents of Battersea. There is a report in the 
Tooting and Balham Times of “an extraordinary meeting, unique in Party 
politics” held in Battersea Town Hall and addressed by Battersea’s two MPs, 
Viscount Curzon and Mr Hogbin and also by the official Labour parliamentary 
candidate, Mr Saklatvala. The hall was packed by people of all shades of 
political opinion and there was applause when Saklatvala said that if he had 
his way, all political meetings should be organised on a multi-party basis. 
Saklatvala made a blistering attack on Battersea’s housing. He said Viscount 
Curzon had accompanied him on a tour of houses that “were disgraceful and 
diabolical. Houses where there were 5, 6 and 7 lodgers in one room. The slates 
had gone from the roofs, the windows were without panes of glass and the 
walls were filthy and full of millions of microbes.” Earlier in his speech he 
claimed that he was in England “to expel from them their national hypocrisy 
and to make them real Christians.” 


“You go to Church,” he said, “and the Church preaches morality and asks you 
to lead healthy lives, and observe in private life morality and decorum between 
the sexes. Yet under your capitalist system you allow father, mother and three 


269 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


or four children to live in one room.” He declared that they studied medical 
science, economics, they gave mind-training and produced articles to improve 
the health and comfort of their people, and yet they permitted 90% of the 
population to live in insanitary houses. In Battersea, he said, there were 
houses that were a disgrace to any city. 

COUMFMST DEMOXSTIUTIO.V IX 
TRAP ALGA R-SQUARE. 

A Comm uniat dwron (Miration, to b«m 
“ Anti-war was bold in Trafalgar- 

square ymterdar afternoon. T be snmknrs 
torliaW Mr. SalM.tv.\U and M. Hmrict. a 
Communist nu-iabar of (h* French Cbambcr at 
Pec utica. M. HrxaiRT, who spoke hi French 
and was JoudJjr chrwfd. said that the 
promt*** of Mr. MacDonata meant nothing ■ ] 
they were merely part of the capitalist game. 

During tha meeting it waa discover*! that 
there were three Kuasian fisbermeo is the 
crowd. They were immedlatoly taken to the 
plinth and worn V:-i dly ehcerrit. |_ 

Clipping: The Times, 28th July 1924 

Saklatvala, as a delegate to the 24th annual Labour Party Conference held at 
the Queens Hall, London, in October, 1924, wound up the perennial debate on 
the affiliation to the Labour Party of the Communist Party, which was, of 
course, once again rejected. Indeed, the gap between the two parties was 
widening, although the Communists remained convinced that the Labour 
Movement could only gain in strength if all left wing movements worked 
together harmoniously against the united capitalist forces that were exploiting 
workers all over the world. But although they claimed to be working for the 
same aims, there was deep division as to the means used to achieve them. 

Mr Frank Hodges MP, introduced the recommendations of the Executive, 
which were: “That the application for affiliation from the Communist Party be 
refused. And that no member of the Communist Party shall be eligible for 
endorsement as a Labour Candidate for Parliament or any Local Authority.” 

At the end of the debate, in which Harry Pollitt also took part in favour of 
affiliation, Mr Saklatvala contended that: 

“The Object in the Constitution of the Labour Party was also, in the 
main, the object of the Communist Party. With regard to parliamentary 
Democracy, it was a mistaken idea, he said, to say that the Communists 
did not believe in the right of the people as expressed in Parliament, but 
they refused to accept a sham democracy in the form of Parliament as it 
is now constituted. It was so undemocratic that it compelled the Prime 
Minister to keep a man like George Lansbury out of the Labour 


270 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


government. 

“As to the non-endorsement as Labour Candidates of members of the 
Communist Party, this was, he said, a very wrong step. There were 
members of the Labour Party who were also members of the National 
Liberal Club and of the Reform Club; if members of the Communist 
Party were to be debarred, so too should the members of these other 
organisations. He had sat for eight months in the House of Commons 
and he could honestly say that he had never received a single letter or 
telegraphic introduction from Moscow. 

“The Communist Party, he said, was recognised all over Europe as a 
definitely working class organisation. Wise or unwise, stupid or 
prudent, it was admitted to be a working class movement, and yet it was 
proposed to put up a cast iron bar against it. He hoped the resolutions 
would be defeated.” 

In this, he was, of course, to be disappointed as all three resolutions, excluding 
communists from membership of the party, from endorsement by the Labour 
Party as parliamentary candidates, and denying the affiliation of the 
Communist Party to the Labour Party, were all carried. In spite of these 
resolutions, Saklatvala was to remain an active member of the Labour Party 
until 1928. 

Communism was then comparatively new to Britain, and was considered to be 
an import from abroad and was, therefore, dubbed by those who feared it, as 
‘unpatriotic’— though more than any other Party, perhaps, it stood for the 
betterment of conditions for working men who were as much part of the 
British nation as were the bankers, businessmen and aristocracy. It was, 
perhaps, largely due to this accusation of disloyalty that the Labour Party 
feared it might lose middle-class votes if it consorted openly with the 
Communist Party. (We had, many centuries earlier, imported quite a few good 
ideas from foreign parts, such as the wheel from Egypt, arithmetic from the 
Arabs and Christianity from Jerusalem, and the basis of our legal system from 
Rome, to name but a few. But these were imported before England had 
become ‘top nation’. Now she was sitting on top of the world, perhaps she felt 
it no longer appropriate to introduce innovations from abroad.) 

This, I suppose, is the greatest weakness of the democratic voting system; 
politicians, anxious from the best motives to achieve or gain power, all too 


271 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


often prune their policies to court the voters rather than forming policies to 
further their fundamental political and economic principles. After all, there 
are still those who believe that a party has to trim its principles in order to woo 
reluctant voters. Personally, I think it a most dangerous course to follow; for 
such parties all too often lose their direction and miss their final destination. 
And in the last analysis, who is going to vote for a party that doesn’t know 
where it is heading? The Vicar of Bray is remembered only as a figure of fun 
and certainly did not achieve much, other than to survive. True, he retained 
his head, but there are few who believe it was worth keeping. 

It is hard— indeed it is distressing — to imagine the steadfast adherence to 
principle and the dogged spirit of optimism that prevailed among those early 
socialist and communist leaders, now that we have to witness the dismantling 
of our own welfare state and the disintegration of the communist governments 
in eastern Europe. They were all so positive that communism would spread all 
over the world ultimately and that, with it, would be achieved human 
happiness. 

For my part, I remain convinced that depression and sorrow are the natural 
emotional state of mankind— after all, the first thing a human baby does is to 
cry— and it is to cheer ourselves up that we divert ourselves with learning, 
music, dance, theatre, games, drink, drugs and suicidal smoking, flirtations 
and the pursuit of love, good food, travel, hard work... and thus most of us 
manage for much of the time to hold our natural depression at bay. I do not 
subscribe to the belief in original sin, only to the belief in original despair; and 
despair is not an illness to be cured, but a natural condition which has to be 
endured. One has only to look into the eyes of the inmates of refugee camps, to 
realise that, stripped of human hope and the chance of activity and endeavour, 
our inborn depression reasserts itself. 

And despair crept into Father’s thinking sometimes for, in his latter years, he 
apparently said once to my mother, “Well, Sehri, have I been a fool? Should I 
have made money like the rest of them and given you and the children a 
comfortable life, instead of spending my energies on politics?” This mood of 
despondency passed, especially as my mother reassured him that she would 
not have had it any other way. But he would not have been human if he had 
never had moments of self-doubt and loss of hope. 

But these moments were rare and, with his strength of purpose, he overcame 


272 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


them; for the most part he fervently believed that communism, and with it 
human happiness, would be achieved, that the poor and oppressed would be 
rescued, that, in the spirit of the Magnificat, the mighty should be put down 
from their seats, and those of low degree would be exalted; the hungry should 
be filled with good things, and the rich would be sent empty away. 


273 



CHAPTER 14 


Re-election and the Red Scare 

The Zinoviev Letter. Parliamentary debate following the 
assassination of Sir Lee Stack, 1924. Resignation from the 
firm of Tata. Election victory, November 1924. The Tories 

regain power. 


Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour government was short-lived. He had been brave 
and realistic enough to give formal recognition to the government in Russia 
and had entered into a trade agreement with them. He was also negotiating a 
loan to the USSR. The opposition viewed such activity with distaste and alarm. 
But it was not any major political issue that brought the Labour government 
down, instead it was an accusation against one Mr J.R. Campbell, acting- 
editor of the communist journal Workers’ Weekly. The Director of Public 
Prosecutions brought a case of sedition against him for publishing an article 
calling on the armed forces not to intervene against strikers in any industrial 
dispute, and not to fire on men who, after all, were their fellow- workers. 

But the Attorney-General, Sir Patrick Hastings, deemed it wiser to withdraw 
the indictment. To bring a case against Campbell and have it fail would be 
worse than not bringing a suit at all. Campbell had sustained disabling wounds 
as a soldier during the war, when he had been awarded a decoration for 
exceptional gallantry, and he could well excite public sympathy on this 
account. It was also feared that such a prosecution could be interpreted as 
interference with the right of free speech. The Conservatives and Liberals in 
the House seized on the opportunity and successfully moved a vote of censure, 
and MacDonald was forced to ask for the dissolution of Parliament. 

Whatever MacDonald’s faults might have been, there is no doubt that he had 
endured a most exacting few months as Prime Minister and had suffered 
harsh personal criticism from Tories, Liberals and his own back-benchers; he 
had added to his responsibilities by conducting his own Foreign Affairs. He 
faced the prospective General Election a tired, and personally very injured 
man. Nor could the affairs of state be neglected; these had to be conducted 


274 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


during the course of his travels between an arduous and demanding schedule 
of public meetings. He was addressing twenty or more meetings every day in 
different towns and was constantly travelling and on the move. 

So it was that the scurrilous affair of the ‘Zinoviev Letter’ caught him 
unawares; though the whole deception was so skilfully and cunningly 
conducted that it is doubtful whether anyone in MacDonald’s position could 
have overcome the consequences of it, no matter how alert and leisured they 
might have been. 

Just four days before Polling Day, on 25th October 1924, under melodramatic 
headlines, the Daily Mail published what purported to be a letter from the 
President of the Soviet Presidium in Moscow, Mr Zinoviev, addressed to Mr 
MacManus, the Secretary of the Communist Party in Great Britain. The Mail 
reported it as “Two dramatic documents just released by the Foreign Office— a 
copy of a letter from Zinoviev to the British Communist Party and a protest 
note issued by the Foreign Office to the Russian Charge d’Affaires in London.” 
History leaves us in no doubt that the letter was a counterfeit; it was not until 
the summer of 1927 that one Drujalovsky, a known forger, confessed to having 
assisted in forging the Zinoviev Letter with a group of White Russian emigres 
in Berlin; but whomsoever actually wielded the pen, there can be no question 
of the fact that the contents of the letter were devised by someone with a 
profound and intimate knowledge of British politics, and its author showed 
consummate skill and political insight. What can never be established is how 
much the Foreign Office and press barons actually believed it to be true, or 
whether it was used, cynically, as probably one of the dirtiest of dirty political 
tricks to discredit the socialist movement. 


275 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Election Campaign 

(Cuntlnntil), 


HARD FIGHTING TX 

BATTERSEA. 

COMMUNIST ROWDYISM. 

<iioi e ? iscial W53a«payucvT ) 

Xoulli 1 ](iUm>mi lu»l jvir tciiai an 

TTTl p I C^l> h ii L iioCiirifl}' i:*a T|£ tr> * Iim IiuvvI 
ideas nf ijur pi it Rtrkrjiiriii Ly tin. 

Vp-Uk- rutrdbM rrt Jm C^immnrurt Pur^-. 

/*Cwl c* L 111 c^uiuiil upjKMiLku .*! mrl. 
strength Ika < m.iW in imiltM litm- 

ISil luuni. Rid tlirrulcnrtl \vilh ficriuMl 
V la 1 1 r. 04. Xr, ITugfetn, elm Tjhi»r.il anHi- 
• lie. J U. ‘(ibsmkfe )tiii miu'.L^t, but 
Lu tf nil lilH ejM< fnuii Mr, rf«VI*lrv«l:t, t>j» 

C team u nisi, by 1S>1 vuliu 'Itmrv: 

oa:: hr. 11:11* ilmilit Umt lln? <d 

Ui rortiern uijp'cil L/ llm BAtUrj»s 
'* Dwto" co ntn billed to hi# kina*!*, but 
Ilia JM10CV Ml £u. M# Urn l>xmmiiiibi.Hi( 

aafucTTjcd, apji»aw .to it*** b?e«i ur- 

Af^nJy till* nwlc an» cp«u-ub 

[r#^ry: in 'upper! of Ml. liowbill huJ 

' “All lie be Atopped by tlm jkjIkm 
; lm uprt*r wm io great, aiul a- ttec tit 
tiilm*, THffdoc M whtCLj Mr. Hu*imi *0 
iLi^mO lii». Aiipfcirmnc wm jpvttly f^lrr- 

n»[*f *ii rj ytmnij Ccnamuub/A who had 

tr.jiiifc.rwd to r.!>tol»\ L Jriilxi-'.iu 

Mi. rltyrixti hits ovjcn os. his eppanmt 
Mt. •Sulluivilx, win hm b?:n odtplod by 
11 k lire! CimurirVct Party, ***' will alvj 
I fc*ava llm ucnttim&l pn-(jv-'i or the total 
Lut^a:- nt^uixxUon, llatcrseaa i> itna oi 

llm ttxmf nmUrm q! tbt Olid 

CcmniMiiiod rz. and #lm& Vii*. 

MO>:btv. vJiu: Oor^rr.eiiVoa uinl JLibcl lift 
dincfcd 11m upctosmtMfinn. a vA>t adioau; 
nl ydrx liui Leu:, dtuo by q|| pr’ita?/.! 

•parbti in |it<[.KrKl nr In? tad “■ Ni>m t tricJ 
oi 3ti«cu:li. Imi /hat Mr. )Jogba» re* 

«ivcd J. lupt KMiniw ot JlOwu 

fn v.'hrm he ulnijtcl lilu_- 
trt uipputl cwuiiirn’cnQl nrwriiMfit 
nKAtTK jSoiioUsia. 1# iul fYinftcrvfcVVw 
•Avro •piftt’ COUltiui villi tb* rrmnn** 5 ti 
wbifli ho Imp l It in wrtL' ITTio vttelo 
xiifftininihri Of tim l.rmj 
Vnrij is noir dUflng Ty~yc r all to secure 
lib rc-n|fc< 10 i». Mitt! lib nr<Kp»'t« ct 
ju:rm^ nr. an Auli^brithll llr ^R/ ifii- 
Lbi*l otnjidace irv nm^iewd p>:c 

Clipping: The Times, 15th October 1924 
No one can ever know who instigated it. It was certainly not the work of either 
the Labour or the Communist Party, both of whom were the victims of the 
plot; almost certainly, the Foreign Office, the British Intelligence Service and 
Conservative Central Office were to some degree involved, either acting in 
naive belief of the letter’s authenticity or dishonestly, pretending that they 
believed it. The readers’ views upon it will depend upon their personal political 
predilections. But could anyone genuinely believe that Zinoviev would impart 
such views and directives in an open letter to the British Communist Party, 
when it was common knowledge that letters and correspondence to that body 
were quite likely to be intercepted? 

In any case, MacManus was actually in Moscow on the date appearing on the 
spurious letter, and so Zinoviev could have given him any orders by word of 


276 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


mouth; for, as Saklatvala pointed out to a crowded election meeting in 
Trafalgar Square on 26th March, Zinoviev would never entrust such a 
confidential document to the British Post Office Service. One can only think 
that whoever perpetrated the swindle was either simple-minded or dishonest. 
The clever contents of the letter really rules out the possibility of simple- 
mindedness and, in my view, one is left, therefore, with the only other 
alternative. 


ROHDYrs y iv XGKT n BATT£JtHSA 

A Ji.i ka I lvKi >17 Vr, HtflNn, i)K 
•ulm.!,! unaltj &» Ncrita 

F**- M ** 1 «"•< bmkiK, 

rrwulc'A.n r». 31 ife 
irrtihk. Art.T J5r. itsrMr, 1 ,j 4 viM 

iMtfinx lu KUoil» 1 a Sxur* BVtukt 
»«* appomrO » I»l it l.iViir AtaUnim 
(of 'I mil bt» ojfMMit, 

rwl rf^n%j Tk* *yt+rvnt r?- 

ti'tVAl *1lfc ctiti td “ uJ airy*. 

I *xlnf. Mil mi h>v4i ilhoniu Sotk>WA| 1 sm. < 
Mr. Hngtfei MM h! Miul ml carry \ U |> r 
r/n4ltjnr» Mid bi4d do ftirJi'/ 

IO.TtlO|l. Jl WJU TI»r1»T»ll>fcl, IrW'Str. 

K Eulbit ilbnnHi rlanird to dvc Ka 
rv*.dy >uni 3 A 00: bom ctiAir* Vt adUm- 
Ulr jU/. • • 


Clipping: The Times, 22nd October 1924 
The ‘letter’ called upon the Communist Party in Great Britain to press for 
government ratification of the treaties drawn up by the Labour government 
and which were so bitterly opposed by the Conservative Party. It called upon 
the communists to agitate more strongly and carry on more vigorous 
propaganda within Britain’s armed forces. And it goes on to call for action that 
would make it possible to paralyse Britain’s armed forces and ultimately to stir 
up civil war. 

[Editor’s note: A report by Gill Bennett, ‘“A Most Extraordinary and 
Mysterious Business”: The Zinoviev Letter of 1924’ published by the UK 
Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1999, offers the following “best guess” 
scenario of the document’s origen: 

“It is well documented that White Russian, Monarchist, anti- Bolshevik 
circles were outraged by the signature of the Anglo-Soviet treaties in 
August 1924. The statement in the House of Commons on 19 March 
1928 by the Labour MP Saklatvala, to the effect that the signature of the 
treaties was followed by a flurry of communication between the Baltic 
states and Berlin, with the aim of devising ‘ways and means... either to 
frighten [MacDonald] out of his position, or to strengthen his hands and 
enable him to shake off his extremists’, may well be correct. White 
Russian Intelligence services were well developed and highly organised, 


277 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


and included the operation of a forgery ring in Berlin. It seems likely 
that they asked either those forgers, or their contacts in the Baltic states 
with similar skills, to produce a document which would derail the 
treaties and damage the Labour government. Because of British 
Intelligence links with Berlin, information about the proposed forgery 
could have reached certain members of British Intelligence Agencies 
who were on the look-out for opportunities to further the Conservative 
cause in Britain, and to discredit the Labour Party in the process. 
Anyone in that position, and with a wide net of contacts in London, was 
well placed not only to vouch for the authenticity of the Letter but also 
to encourage its dissemination in quarters where profitable— and 
mischievous— use might be made of it.”] 


278 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Electio n Campaign. 

ix THE LONDON 
AREA, 

• . i 

COMXOIST DISORDER IX 
. BATTERSEA 


CAMPAIGN OF TERROR. 

. (l*OM OlrR WPEt'tAL C01ULXSPOHDENT. ) 

, Tho Communists in North IUt,t«roea ore 
•c»in doing th*ir best to spread terror 
among the elector*. Their diaonieriy 
mothods un similar to then* adopted last 
year- -violent rowdyism at Liberal meet- 
ings and in the streets. They have 
already broken np uume of the Liberal 
gathering : Mr. Hogbin has Buffered 
personal injury and bin wife hue been 
grossly insulted while canvassing. The 
Libera] candidate has announced that if 
tins oounse of conduct is continued all 
bis public meetings will be abandoned 
and ho will leave the matter to the I 
electors. 

Mr. Uogbin'a return was secured last 
yasr by the combined vote of Liberals 
and Unionists, and he is again receiving 
Unionist help. But liis majority over 
Mr. Saklatvala, the Indian Comnauniit, 
wan only 186. Tho smallness of the 
figaro wo< attribute.!, in part, to tho fact 
that uuny voters, partk-uIaHy women, 
were afraid to go to the poll. Otcr 
15,000 tailed to record their votes. Mr. 
Hogbin is now coodneting a strenuous 
n«b". in a very difficult situation, omi 
if he con induce tho electors to bolieve 
that they will receive full protection 
next. Wednesday, be will no doubt, como 
oat oi it with an increased majority. 


Ha w appending to nil oUusoo, and sa>s| 
ho will be very much Surprised if good I 
honest British working n>m vote fer a' 
mau who is pot oven allowed to be 
included in the Labour Party, In his 
speech*# Mr. Hogbin has condemned 
Socialist policy in detail, and his quota- 
tion* from Communist statements have 
am’iwd the auger of his opponents. A 
handbill has been circulated in the con- • 

crtitAiMioy giving a long Ust of unredeemed ' 
Socialist pledges. 

It is understood that the local Labour 
Party are not altogether a happy family. 
Seme of the members wished to run an 
official Labour oandidate, but it is seated 
that at a meeting of what are called tho 
"Joint divisions of thn Rattareew Labour 
Party " them wse an overwhclauus 
majority in favour of Mr. Saklatvala's 
candidafn-o. The Communist cxtrertisU 
flooded tho Labour moderaV*. It remains 
to be seen whether |iw letter will oh II 
vote Rod. Mr. Jiaktatval* and his 
supporters are using the sweets a great 
deal ; they hold some of thoir meetings 
in the open, snd they chalk tho ranefi* | 
data's name and qnallflisitiotts on the j 
asphalt mads. His speeches contain I 
the wildest statements, pcrochvr.g class j 
liatred. Ha propaora among other things i 
to pay for nowsures “for tho people's] 
welfare " out of the H4U millions of 
fateffe* reaufwd for the IhM—l 


Clipping: The Times, 24th October 1924 
The bombshell produced the desired effect among the British electorate. No 
one can definitively determine just to what extent the outcome of the election 
was affected by these sensation-seeking revelations. But the unusually large 
turnout of 80% of the voters could well have been an indication of the panic 
induced by the publication. 

Needless to say, the Conservatives got in. (I hope I may be forgiven for 
reminding the reader of a principle of Roman law, that the author of a crime is 
he who profits therefrom). The Labour Party increased its votes by about a 
million, but nevertheless lost some fifty seats. The Liberals fared worst, losing 
some too seats in the House, leaving them with only 42 MPs. 


279 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


But among the successful candidates was the Communist contender for North 
Battersea, Mr Saklatvala. I imagine this was pretty irritating to the instigators 
of the Zinoviev Letter scare! This time, he had presented himself to the 
electorate as a Communist Party candidate, although he was supported by the 
Labour Party and the Trades Union Council. That he survived the onslaught of 
the Zinoviev Letter is remarkable— but perhaps the British newspaper readers 
are not so gullible as might sometimes be supposed. 


Tbn taitiiTe of Mr. Hogbut, Cowtitu- 
lirwmlmt ,to retain the scar, in Bwterwk 
North against Mr. SnU!„i. vala, tbe Com- 
munist, u probably due in groat measure 
tn the disturbed stntcof the division. There 
a good de«l of rowdyism during the 
contest, aik) the fear of tronble prevented 
many voters form polling. Mr. Hogfain’s 
majority last year was only 18t>- _ Oti 
\V«dnesr}fty he polled 2.027 votes more 
than U*t year, out the Socialists, in co- 
operation with the Communists, whipped 
up an additional 2,755. The electorate 
hail mcn-nsed by 403, and it ia likely that 
Mr. Saklatvala wo* helped by many of 
the new voter*. A* many as 10,930 
electors abstained from voting. In Balter 
sea South, Lord Cnreon increased his 
majority freer. 1,118 to 3,217. 


Clipping: The Times, 31st October 1924 

The Zinoviev bogey was more frightening to middle-class than to working- 
class voters, on whose support Saklatvala relied. But psephologists would have 
to concede, I think, that it was a great personal triumph for him to have won 
the seat, and is an indication that the voters of Battersea trusted his word and 
his integrity. It was only the Communists at the time who could be absolutely 
certain that the letter was a forgery, since they and they alone knew, positively 
and beyond any doubt, that no such letter had ever been received; and it 
seems Saklatvala succeeded in convincing the people of Battersea of this fact. 

A short while after the election and before the House convened, Father came 
home late one night after Mother had gone to bed. He called up the stairs 
asking her to come down and help him up to bed, as he had broken his ankle 
and could not manage by himself. Mummy thought he was teasing her (as he 
frequently did) and just laughed, told him to stop fooling and to come to bed. 
But he was not fooling— he had indeed broken his ankle, and when she finally 
took his pleading seriously, Mother found him standing in the hall with the 
help of crutches. He was still on crutches when he took his seat in the new 
Parliament on 2nd December 1924. 

On the 16th December Saklatvala was told by the leadership of the 


280 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


parliamentary Labour Party that he was not to be given the Labour whip. He 
reminded them, politely, that he had not applied for it. 


POLITICAL NOTES. 


LABOUR MANIFESTO 
ON RUSSIA. 


CRITICISM OF PARTI 
TACTICS. 

Kor an hour and a half yesterday aftet- 
the member* of the Patliamamary 
Labour Party, meeting under the chair- 
rxiamhip of Mr. Miel)aaald, dumkttd 
with considerable franknem their present 
pomtion in the political dram*. It is *n 
open secret at Westminster that many Of 
Uie rank and file «r* prufbimdly dissatia- 
ned at the way in which they hava Lwi 
k*d in recent months, and when In pirivate 
coairinve they are not in the habit of 
nuhciug their words. The official report 
merely states that the course of tile 
debate on the Russian Treaties and tho 
ZinovicS letter was discussed, and con- 
sideration was given to the debate which 
is to take place oh Friday " on the 
announcement made by the Prime 
Minister regarding Cabinet intervention 
m political prosecutions.'* 

Labour Itietnbor* are already announce 
uvr that they do not regard Friday's de- 
bate as tmo on the Campbell case. They 
have no desire to press that partlculiir 
case any furtbar. bat rather to concen- 
trate on the broad Question of the right 
of the Cabinet to intervene in political 
prosecution*. It is said that both Mr. 
MacDonald and Mr. Thomas, who are ex- 
PTOted to speak, arc fortifying themselves 
with precedents which they claim will en- 
I i rely justify the action taken by the late 
Cahuiet. But Conaervativa members are 
nnxioua that the Campbell case shall be 
kept wwll to the fore during the debate, 
«s they desire to obtain further informa- 
tion as to (he circumstance* which led 
the Cabinet to issue the instruction that 
no political prooocation should be 
directed by tlie Attorney-General without 
tho sanction of the Cabinet. 


The official report of yesterday’s meet- 
ing states that the position of Mr. 
SoldaivaU. the Communist member, was 
also considered, and H was decided that 
in view of tho resolution* of the Labour 
Party annual conference with respect to 
Communists and tlte Communist Party, 
it would be impossible to admit him as a 
member of the Parliamentary Party. No 
mention is made in the official report, 
however, of the anxiety that was dis- 
played at tho meeting concerning the per- 
formances of Mr. ruroell and his col- 
leagues on tho Labour delegation to 
Soviet Russia. Fean were expressed that 
the continual eulogies of the Soviet ad- 
ministration by the British visitors was 
bound to do considerable barm among 
the moderate member* of the Labour 
Party in this country. It wee agreed that 
a Statement of the attitude of the Parlia- 
mentary Labour Party toward* tlie present 
rulers of Soviet Russia should be pre- 
pared and issued without delay, and a 
small committed was appointed to k*ep 
the parly in touch with any development 
m the Russian situation. 


Clipping: The Times, 17th December 1924 
There is a marked difference in his speeches in the House once Saklatvala was 
liberated from the Labour whip and adherence to Labour policy. No one man, 
being the sole representative of a political Party in the House of Commons, 
could hope to change the course of parliamentary events or to influence the 
voting in the House on any issue, but what Saklatvala did manage to do was to 
use the House as a platform from which to deliver persistent propaganda on 
behalf of the communists. He acted as the irritant within the oyster-shell of 


281 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the House of Commons and frequently produced pearls which were quoted by 
the press of the day— so the propaganda in the House spread to the 
newspapers and to the electorate in general. 

It was at 11.25 on the night of 17th December 1924, that Saklatvala spoke in 
the House of his position as the sole communist member there: 

“It may seem rather out of proportion for an individual to stand up and 
say he represents a Party which claims to put forward its views, but I 
appeal to the House to realise the position. We have heard about the 
great fondness this House has for its traditions, and I can well 
understand that it would take some time to adjust itself to some new 
feature that arises here. I represent a proper, well-organised, well- 
formed and rather too loudly acknowledged political party in the 
country now. 

“I am not one of those international socialists who take offence at 
having friends in Moscow, Berlin or Delhi. As a member of the 
International Communist Party, I submit that our movement does 
extend from Moscow to Battersea, and much beyond that. It is as well 
organised a Party as any other Party in the state, with its machinery, its 
press, its branches all over the country. I would point out to hon and rt. 
hon Gentlemen opposite— I do not know whether it was merely put on 
or whether it was their sincere belief— that right up to the last Election 
they were saying that our Party was the vital tail that was wagging the 
whole of the Labour dog. 

“We do not count by numbers, but what we lack in numbers we make up 
for in solid importance. Our friends of the Liberal Party only succeeded 
in returning to the House one member for every seven and a half 
candidates, whereas our Party succeeded in returning one member out 
of seven candidates. 

“Considering the change that is now going on, and considering the 
rightful place the Communist Party is taking in the Parliaments all over 
Europe, this House might now grant to us justifiable claims and put us 
in the time-table. I do not for a moment claim that our Party should 
have a whole day, or a couple of days, allotted, but surely, now, the 
House could begin to allot to us, say, an hour, when other Parties can 
have a full day to themselves. 


282 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“I have looked over the debates for the last 4 or 5 days, and it seems to 
me that our Party would be the only one that would stand in real 
difference without getting mixed up at times. We find it very difficult to 
find a line of strong demarcation... We have heard during the last few 
days of the debate many points of agreement between the Tory Party 
and the administrators of the Labour Party, and we have seen very few 
points of strong disagreement... looking at it all I submit that it is for the 
good of this nation and not for its harm, that one party should stand up 
boldly to say that it always says what it believes in, and believes in what 
it is prepared to say, and to act up to it. 

“We represent that section of the working class that does not believe in 
continuity of policy. We represent a section of the working class that 
does not believe in saying at one time that your employers are your 
enemies, that individual capitalism is the source of all your evils, and yet 
that we should sit down with them, make friends and form a joint club 
so that evils may disappear from time to time. 

“With regard to the wording of my amendment, I remember that when I 
was in the House in 1922 the first King’s Speech I heard was read and 
debated. My hon Friend, the member for West Houghton was reported 
to have said this: ‘I was proud to come to the House because I did not 
during the war send any young boy to his doom, and the Labour Party, I 
feel sure, will echo every word when I say that their advent to this 
House, if it means anything at all, means goodwill among all the peoples 
of the earth. 

“I am glad to learn that the people of India rejoice because our numbers 
are growing, and the people of Egypt feel better towards this country 
because they know that the Labour Party brings international good will.’ 
I offer no comment, but I suppose everybody is agreed that, foolish as 
the Indians may be, and wicked as the Egyptians may be, I do not 
believe that today they entertain that belief that was attributed to them 
last year. 


283 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


"LENIN MEMORIAL” 
MEETING. 


USE OP THEATRE REFUSED. 

Tliu tbialhi kutluirUiM CTOCfmod Lata 
t*l«n act'xro hanuli.g tho use of tbo New 

Oxbhj UMAtta to-rvirm w, for tbo potpou 
Of hftliflntl ft “ Ixunift Mdoariiil " Dt*tb£ nv.H,^ 

tbd auspices of thj* Coinmusiist Party ox Great 

iMttla. 

Ur. Walts* Poyno, chairman nf tht Oxford 
Limited, ovnon Of tb* Uitnln, haa Qift-i* the 
fcOowing statemecC : — “ ff. have given notice 
to the company ulilcU ho&de the lieeecr to qm 
I ho theatre hvmi na that »e rtiuin! it u a 
b***rh of the licence to allow a luewtin* <t( 
lh» Vied to he held, and that we, thetvfm, 
c a nn ot permit it. The p*noo eooeernod 1* 

Mr. Oulllvtr, who has ft bccnce to peodur* 

P*»y* foe a term which expires at the «od of 
March. Mr. Oiilhver del not anderttand 
uliat to be the charade* of the no.-eting 
when he agreed to let the bulilln*- Labmtr 
meetings have been held therv, ami they have 
been quit* proper and orderly. Rut Mr. 

Gulliver did mil know that tide wat to In a 
special “ Lanin Monona] '* meeting. Mr. 
fiuiliver ha* acoordiagly comiuunvalcd alth 
tbe Co«wm*>ni< Patty ranti'lliu* the arrange- 
ment, and 1 undone end that he will take b-»»l 
«t«p. in order to ensure that the bon shall b* 
rfluctivu." Mr. Payne added that It was a 
debatable qorwtkm vrbKher the om of the 
theatre for (he purposo intended can he within 
the terra of thn la-one* granted to the- owiu-.-x, 
which make* proraian for stage piays, c«u- 
oectx, aud cmeica performanciw. 

Mr. C. R. Cochran, the supeciuc lU-cnra of 
th» theatre, w also eoexerned, and Mr. Pa, an 
*taUa that Mr. Cochran shares hM vitw. 

When approadied, however, Mr. Cochran pre- 
ferred to make no statement. 

Tlia meeting wan t<> have bees addecatMd 
among other* by Mr. daklatynla, MR-, and 
Mr. J. R. Campbell 

Clipping: The Times, 17th January 1925 
“With regard to the amendment of which I have given notice, I submit 
that it is based upon the teachings and doctrines preached to the 
working classes from one end of Great Britain to the other for the last 
30 years. We are still telling the working classes that their struggle is a 
class struggle, that their emancipation lies in the complete extinction of 
the individual ownership system, and that their only salvation in 
international affairs is not based upon Imperialism and protective 
tariffs, and armies, bombs and insolent letters to Zaghlul Pasha, saying, 
‘My soldiers and bayonets will remain where they are but still we are 
pacifists.’ Or telling the people of India, ‘My ordinances shall rule you, 
but still we are the Party of goodwill’, and telling everybody, ‘We believe 
in a certain philosophy of life, but we do not practice it when it is a 
question of the democratic Parliament of the British Empire.’ 

“In this respect I submit to the House that the things I would have 
placed before it would not have been in any hostile spirit, but would 
have been presented to this House and the country at large as the 
viewpoint which will have to be accepted some day or other as the only 


284 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


sane and honest view of life.” 

The “insolent letters to Zaghlul Pasha,” Prime Minister of Egypt, concerned an 
incident in Egypt on 20th November 1924, when Sir Lee Stack, Governor- 
General of the Sudan and Sirdar (that is, Commander-in-Chief) of the 
Egyptian Army, was shot and killed and his Aide-de-Camp and his chauffeur 
were also wounded. 

The British government sent what The Times described as “a stern note” to 
Zaghlul Pasha saying, inter alia, that His Majesty’s government considered 
that the murder was “the natural outcome of a campaign of hostility to British 
rights and British subjects in Egypt and Sudan founded upon a heedless 
ingratitude for benefits conferred by Great Britain, not discouraged by your 
Excellency’s government.” The note went on to demand an apology, the 
punishment of those responsible, the immediate suppression of political 
demonstrations, and the payment of a fine of £500,000. 

Egypt’s reply apologised, agreed to pay the fine and to seek out the criminals, 
but refused sundry other requests contained in Britain’s letter. As a result of 
further correspondence between the two governments, Zaghlul Pasha resigned 
as Prime Minister and there was a political crisis in Egypt. 

These events were debated in the House of Commons, and the transfer of the 
Egyptian money (the fine of £500,000) to the Sudan “for benevolent 
purposes.” It is not surprising that the incident and ensuing correspondence 
raised the anti-imperialist hackles of the communist member for North 
Battersea, whose contribution to the debate was as follows: 

“May I point out that even a wise use of this money is not going to 
satisfy the constitutional point involved in the whole issue. We were 
informed at the beginning that a cheque was demanded and promptly 
paid. The promptness of the payment does not at all prove either the 
justification for the demand or the willingness with which the payment 
was made. I have in mind 2 cheques amounting to £300,000 which 
were also promptly paid by an eminent gentleman, and I think that the 
British government have applied exactly the same tactics, and the 
promptness with which the £500,000 was paid was due to the same fear 
under pressure, intimidation and blackmail... 

“The rt hon gentleman seems to speak as if it were some amount due to 
the Sudanese government, that the British government were merely 


285 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


collecting it in a spirit of benevolence. That is not so. The British 
government are now using the name of the Sudanese government ... 

“The cheque was extorted from the Egyptian government in a manner 
which is discreditable to the whole history of international relations... 
and it was because of the mailed fist of Britain that this cheque was 
forthcoming... the justice at the back of it were your gunboats and your 
blue-jackets. 

“The British government had to pay after all what appeared to them to 
be justifiable sums to the extent of £50,000 [it had been decided to pay 
£40,000 to Sir Lee Stack’s widow and sums of £3000 and £5000 each 
to the Aide-de-Camp and to the chauffeur] and not £500,000, and the 
Egyptian government might be looked to indemnify the British 
government for this £50,000... they have demanded ten times the 
money they paid and now there is talk of ‘benevolent purposes’... 


FORMER LABOUR M.P. AND 
A COMMUNIST. 


REFUSAL TO SliARE PLATFORM 

Tlnrv «»n * atirpriw dsiulupcnant ot a 
mfMiuc arrange |» V held la Uverpool Jut 
eveiilag hj- tha !.irm»x>l Tradm Council and 
Labour Party. *1 ui,|ch tbs child spoakere 
advartimd wera Major A G. CUtm*. formerly 
Labour MJ*. for Kaat Leyton, and Mr. A. 
KakUivala, th« Communist M.P. Major 
Church UOed to appear. Instead ha ssol a 
tetu-r of protest to the chairman. k> which ln« 
wdi- » 

r* .■** uf" tars Urn ralHl lim hr O' 

b 1 *!*! la hssir JU rty in aaft ■( mtoe 

£ U** ** »i» •« naml *» dims 

""J 1 ,»t rartlw »tm» wunoUs. 

£, n i £ iz 

^tir ,* 

*“ .** , M* 1 . • Wes iriomet IrVm- 
In »ml rilli a »Mrvn|jtrT, „i :Vr 

ft”’ J.V T 1 ‘n nUcmism a. ailuu. n> Ur 

icy iirMa m Uv* auitc*. it m *r«j 

am /We I aav. ttu, u.n U.«d tu i 

Major Church said lost ui K ht that no 
iwsponaild. member ol tlia Labour Party 
would have anythin* to do udli the Com- 
munist Pmty Thry did not intend to make 
proper ne ot the Pariiamesitarr marbrne. 

Ttlflf 1 >h rjm to iWtdniy puiiitilytiiMijJ 

Major Omti'U uaa Parliamentary Private 
XotTwtary to the Pirssdmt ot tlia Boon! w | 
radq lu Ur Lahmg (Jovcn.ineiit. 


Clipping: The Times, 26th January 1925 
“What is the Sudanese government but a military tyranny of a foreign 
power imposed upon the innocent people of the Sudan? Who are the 
Sudanese government? How many Sudanese have created the Sudanese 
government? When the Germans entered Belgium and they created 
there the new Belgian government, every man in this country said that it 


286 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


was not a Belgian government, but that it was a German tyranny. In the 
Sudan today the Briton is a robber who is sticking there by force of 
arms... 

“I say in the name of the Communist Party [laughter] ... which makes 
you jeer here and makes your Brigadier-Generals go to Trafalgar Square 
and enlist thousands of young men as Fasciti to fight them, that this 
House is going to be now a party for the first time to this blackmail... 
“Are we to understand that this nation is not entitled to recover its 
common sense and sense of justice a little later on when the angry mood 
has passed away? Are we to understand that the sense of justice of the 
British Foreign Office, the British Prime Minister, the British House of 
Commons and the British nation on this particular question is lost for 
ever, and that we are going to misappropriate this loot in perpetuity? 

“Is there no possibility even now of referring the moral point involved in 
this exaction of £500,000 and of handing back to the Egyptians 
whatever balance an impartial international tribunal may say you 
wrongly took from them? Instead of talking loudly about benevolence to 
the Sudanese, cannot you ascertain that the Sudanese are more self- 
respecting than you are and would refuse to touch this blood money and 
use it for benevolent purposes...” 

When the House was debating the granting of £15,000 to send the Prince of 
Wales on a visit to Africa and South America, David Kirkwood (Labour) said 
the Prince of Wales should go on a tour of this country, to be shown the slums, 
the poverty and the terrible working conditions of his own people. Saklatvala, 
always offering a novel twist to older ideas, said he would rather spend the 
money showing the living conditions of people like the Prince to some of the 
slum dwellers of Battersea, by giving them a week of luxury living. 

It was also stated that one of the purposes of the Prince’s tour was to promote 
the sale abroad of British goods. 

Saklatvala said: 

“I fail to understand how a visit from the Prince of Wales can enable you 
to sell to Argentine any article which you are not capable of selling with 
the sound workmanship of British workers at a reasonable, competitive 
cost... You cannot send royal ambassadors to any country if your 
workmen are producing bad materials and try to induce trade through 


287 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the splendours of royalty. I would challenge hon members opposite to 
take any shoddy material... and effect a large trade in it by sending 
royalties abroad as salesmen...” 

George Lansbury (Labour) added, “I can understand the argument that we 
need a King to act as a representative of the British Dominions, but I have yet 
to learn that it is the function of kingship to go round as a commercial bagman 
doing trade.” 

[Editor’s note: George Lansbury, later to become leader of the Labour Party, 
had been Mayor of Poplar in 1921, when he led the Poplar Rates Rebellion, 
opposing not only the government and the London County Council, but 
leaders of his own party. The borough council, instead of forwarding collected 
tax monies to LCC, dispersed the money as aid to the needy. Thirty 
councillors, including six women, were jailed by the High Court for six weeks. 
Council meetings during this time were held in Brixton Prison, until the LCC 
asked the High Court to release them.] 

On 26th February 1925, there was a debate on estimates for the Air Force. 
Ernest Thurtle (Labour) proposed an amendment, thereby giving one or two 
Labour members the opportunity to deliver impassioned speeches on 
disarmament. George Lansbury’s appeal was particularly moving. He ended by 
saying: “I believe our people have got the greatest God-given opportunity that 
the masses of no other country have ever had— no democracy has ever had the 
opportunity our people have. You have given them education, you have given 
them municipal administrative powers, you have given them the right to 
organise, the right to vote, the right to come here— what for? To let the world 
be as it has been? No. We are here to say that mankind is one and that the 
one-ness of human life is sacred— that the lives of the black child and white 
child are equally sacred, because Christ was born and because Christ died to 
make those lives sacred.” 

[Editor’s note: Ernest Thurtle is noteworthy for having brought about the 
abolition of the death penalty for cowardice or desertion in the British Army- 
over 300 soldiers had been shot by firing squad during the First World War]. 


288 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


thk communist view. 

Mr. RAKLATVALA (Battcisa*. X., Cotn.>. 
■yanking ou bahslf of the Communist Party, 
said lie supported the amenduimil- Be 
objected to tills use of public money. At tlie 
«B>e time, aonte of Uis friend* among the 
OpjKuitKin ]0Vud Him Empire J they vented 
Royally and Royal A mho s*a<iur». 11 thrv 
wonted all thore luxuries they muet pey Jar 
tbaoi. If they 'ranted an Empire and a R«y»l 

nob el the head ol it 1 Loud cries ad 

■Order" end " Withdraw,") 

The CHAIRMAN. — 1 <lid not catch the 
axjreisdou. (MltlsUiUl criea of M Royal 

Mr. SAKLATVALA- — The Royal head, I 


me i.i. 

TIim CHAIRMAN was understood to say lie 
■lid not catch Mr. RsklatvaUs aanreorioh. <a 
be would have denlt mill It. 

Mr. ft A K 1 -ATVALA, continuing. mid that If 
Uu» enuutry or tlie Opposition wonted on 
Empire and a Royal held for ths Empire, and 
a Royal Ambaieadur to go about, either In 
the streets of AyiShlso or of lfctt-ba* Aires, 
they nuial pay adequately. Therefore, as a 
inehiber rrpi«sw»lit.g the osil-and-out uortinr 
«aoi point at view (tauslder). h* upors'ed the 
Vote on the ground that the irlsds of tlx 
expenditure wns tlio usual trickery of the 
Mlnoeny, irbo were helping tlwms-lvrs at tlx 
expeua. at the majority. This <u clow. tx- 
pevdnutw. U was all fOMOu/lapr to talk ol 
the rocnmorrUl setmtia *f the more ol 
Wales and of hts discussing with may appre- 
rtabto intelligence tho rmnmorvUl problems 
of this nr that trod*. Noshing of Hie sort did 
happen. To put it forward that Huso- writ*- 
tloaa fmm Africa, the Argentina, or freon 
blntgow rune from tlic pon pie in those places 
was Otto more slinm in that Uusate of many 
•fe&tn*. iMtni«t«ml crle* uf a OnlcO H w r» 
n c-ompw.. Some t irr»e ago th#»r wm 

told Hint the Prince ol Woles hi, mcek^” 
cordial invitation from India to visit tliat 
"f "» * fU ?" 1 Ambamador. The peopk 

of India wild they did not want his Royal 
liigliaess there. «tid the Government of India 
had to empty out the gaofe and pay monay to 

>p»rtators (Min£st*ri*! trio, uf “With- 

draw.) 


The CHAIRMAN Said Mr. RskMvaln wns 
travelling rather far fkmsi Africa and South 
Amertca. India did hot coma into the Vote. 

Mr. fi.VKf.ATV Af. \ gold lw was drawing „ 
parallel m order to show 11m want of sincerity 
» these fnviUtiona. which were meont to 
•erve clit» iulitmx!* 

Mr- ^KHBVRY 1 Dow and Broanley. LnhA 
said he tmdenftood the argument that a King 
waa needed as a, kind of titular ropmsentatl 
of Um Rntuh nomtnKxns. but he hail vet to 
leant that ft was tin lunctlou of Kingship to go 
round ns a commercial bagman foe trade, Tim 
qoesOMm before tlm Hones wna not R..psibHt 
«r Monarchy but whether tills money alsiuW 
bn auMit. They were not allowed to critlriw 
Uia Rloc or Hie Prinrc of Woles on the flour 
of that Kuum, but rl members of tlm Royal 
Enmity arm to he sent round as Amhawtadon. 
Im claimed tlm right tn criticise tbeBuHe fcd 
not object to the Prince of Wakrs oe any other 
peesou enjoying himself. but let it exit bo 
camouflaged by saying he was going to do 
buelness for the Britiii Empliw. He r|, ought 
It a disgrace In tins country that money should 
he spent ae It wns propoewd to spend the sum 
10 the vote while there were tree of thousands 
of men nod women bring an the border-line 
of subsistence. 

The amendment wns rejected hr J«« votes 
to SO— mnyonty against, ne— and the Vote 
was carried by m vote* to 87— majority. 20«, 

A Supplementary Vote of £r.o o.«*j , u r a 
grant in old of Hie Irish RniJor*' and Sold lets' 

I And Trust wsa agreed to without debut-. 


Clipping: The Times, 13th February 1925 
Father’s plea was more pragmatic and mundane. He referred to the contention 
of former speakers that Britain and France were life-long friends and that 
there was no chance of going to war against each other. In that case, said 
Saklatvala, since France has a powerful air-force of 120 squadrons, can we not 
rely on their protection? He went on to say: 

“It is said that we of the Communist Party are the enemies of the 
Christian Church; that we are out to destroy all Christian churches. I 
submit that the foundation stone of the Christian Church is, ‘Thou shalt 
not kill’. You, who pretend to be the supporters and faithful upholders of 
that Church, come and tell the nation tonight that the biggest function 
of the government and of the state is to organise the most efficient 
weapons for murder and killing. Organised murder, you say, is the duty 
of the state and preaching ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is the duty of the Church 
and you pretend that Church and state are the best friends of each 


289 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


other... 


WESTMINSTER, Thuusat. 

On the Vote tor the Prince of Wales's | 
vixit to South Africa end elsewhere, Mr. 
1(j«xwood saM be thought the Prince 
should pay for his own voyage, and no | 
public money be spent for such purposes 
white to many unemployed were in want. 
On the whole he succeeded in being 
earnest without being o decisive. a con- I 
5; -do ruble feat in the circumstances. 
Not so Mr. Buchanan nor Mr. Saklatvala, 
who “ ltad no use far Royalty,” nor appa- j 
rentlv for manners- Mr. Qtmnnot, m a ■ 
brief but very effective reply, pointed out 
that the Princa was gouig to all those 
countries by invitation, which it would 
have been offensive to refuse ; and that 
he was in the same position as any 
British Ambassador sent upon a national 
mission, except that not one penny of 
the money was for his personal expenses. I 
Tbe vote was. of course, curried by an I 
immense majority. 


Clipping: The Times, 13th February 1925 
“Mr Ramsay MacDonald, speaking at Swindon the other night, said, in 
the usual dramatic fashion, that whatever was won by the sword and 
was attempted to be kept by the sword, would perish by the sword. Was 
he intentionally sending the British interests in Egypt, in Iraq and in 
India to perdition when he was trying to defend them by the British 
sword?” 

[Editor’s note: This refers to the violence perpetrated by the Army upon 
popular uprisings against imperial rule in these three countries.] 

A few weeks later, on 19th March, estimates for the Royal Navy were being 
debated. Saklatvala said: 

“We have in front of us an item of expenditure which the Rt. hon 
gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty explained has to be taken by 
the world as an index and measure of the love of this nation for peace. 
We have a right to know from him, and the world has a right to know, 
before he describes this nation as the most peaceful nation, if he can 
produce in the records of the last 125 years any other nation that has 
waged so many wars as Great Britain. 

“We have a right to know, the world has a right to know, from the rt hon 
gentleman the name of any other nation which during the last 125 years 
has taken the lives of so many people of other nations in war, or for the 
sake of keeping law and order, as the British nation during that period.” 


290 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


THE “ WORKERS' WEEKLY." 
sm W. JO YSSoX- HICKS. Home Seciv 
lary iTwIrkenhamj, in reply u> Mr. Saklat* 
'**-* OJatUnra. N„ Coo»|. who aoked 11 hr 
inlcudw] to Ui« any action against tlte 
It «rler»' il’reUu imuiijinpcr Ui impart ot on 
•rtiria flititinl '* Tha Programme lor tho 
Aimy," aa.ii! : —Mr attention Laa b*« called 

lo lueatlun.. bet an at portent 
iidMaod 1 do not propo* to Uko any action 

M ioi^ ui \ a ,L . ' l^'ix'ur ltugUar oral 

Ministerial rlwvmj Mr. Saklatv m i -Uncr 

ii i 1 ,, 1 b "A «**»Oemon consider that ths 

»u Wiy nnr dlttcrvut Irom the 
provlotn article ot tlie M'litm' H>aiv, in 

wWct, ortk.il »U iMy withdrawn t iMlnt- 

?*•**“ laughter.! 8m W. JoYNaoK-Hit-KB.— 
« lit 1 Ih difficult to M p rw *n 
Sffff-fe ’'»notn E rnilm o| wickedness. 
lAUwieterlal laughter anil clucn.) 


Clipping: The Times, 13th February 1925 
In the same speech he referred to the discipline of men in the Navy and a 
member called out, “What do you know about it?” Saklatvala replied to the 
interruption, “I admit that Battersea is not noted as a naval port, though half 
of Battersea has the honour to be represented by a very valiant naval officer 
[Viscount Curzon, MP for Battersea South].” (Perhaps out of embarrassment 
at the interruption, Saklatvala in the next sentence addressed the Chair as 
‘Comrade’ Fitzroy, instead of ‘Captain’! The Times reported the amusing and 
almost certainly unique incident the next day, saying there was laughter in 
which the Hon. member himself joined.) 

Saklatvala was to return often to this contention of Great Britain’s record as an 
historic killer-nation. And when people criticised the Russian revolution 
because of the bloodshed, he always claimed that far more human blood had 
been spilled to create and maintain the British Empire than had been shed in 
the creation of the Russian Bolshevik state. 


BRITISH RED CRESCENT 
SOCIETY. 


; TO THE SUITOR OK THE TIMES. 

Sir,--My attention ha* been drawn to 

the report in Uw ** Parliamentary Dc* 

batefc” of tbr 12th tint, (hat Mr. Kaklat- 
vaia <lu«ntkinod bU Majesty' u Secretary 
of State for Foreign Attains as to whether 
the (.toverunicnt intended to move the 
French and Spanish authorities 1st give 
facilities to the BfritUh Red Crectent 
Society U> send n thtxfieal mission and 
medical euoplie* to tJio Ritta. We ate 
, gratified to see that Mr. Safclatvala take* 

I an iwtnrrst in ottr humanitarian work 1 
i desire, however, aay that hU question 
was lest, either directly or Indirectly, ii*. 

I spired by this . sociotj . 

Your* faithfully. 

AMj-lKR ALI. President. Krtlinb 
Red t'rrerect Sociotv. 


291 





THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Clipping: The Times, 25th February 1925 
He took the opportunity to use the Naval Estimates debate to call for a better 
standard of life for naval ratings and their families; he claimed the right for 
naval ratings to join trade unions just as their fellow- workers outside the 
forces were allowed to do; he called for more freedom of worship and political 
affiliation for the ordinary seamen. 


THE L.C.C. ELECTION. 

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIME3. 

Sir. — May I direct the attention oC your ) 
KKui.tr* to the grave peril which threw lens ; 
London at tlio L.C.C. election on Thursday ' 
next, March o ? 

Tho London Labour Party have nominated 
113 candidate*, wlto liuvo the full xuppart uf 
the Communist force*. Then.' are CiMutiHtuisU 
among tlio " Labour " candidates. Tlwi rvoent 
decision o t the National Labour Party not to j 
exyet the Communist* from its rank.* him re- 
voided the strength of Cocnmuni*ni, particularly 
in London. As tho Il’oriar*' Wtrkly. the Com. ! 
munist organ, recently stated. “ not a single , 
Urge local Labour Party in the large town* 
arid cities of Britain h*vn wupported rite ih>. : 
cistern to expo! tbo Cammunict* from their 
rank*."' 

The spirit which animates the London Labour 
Party i» shown by tl» violent «|wtww which 
are being made in many divisions. Fur 
j example, at a meeting lic-Jd on Sunday last in 
support of the Socialist candidate* fur North i 
Battwrwso. Mr. ft.iklatvala. .Vl.P., stated I— 

Wo wont the Muiurtial Mimur. Ui knew th.it 
| liimJiiii bo king* to the S>oi»H-t worker*. the rcv»- 
! lalKiiiACf worker*. the clnw-ooncoSmi. worker*. anil 
| ttur International worker*. UV uaat the LC.C. i 
j ma varied into the iastiuiaaat of Cuuwnunlrt imn- 
I Rsnila. 

Tliere can lie no doubt that the Socialist amt 
Communist Party arc making a mod f urinal • : 
abla attanijA to capture. London's cent r* I ; 
authority, not with the object of giving good I 
municipal administration but for tlie nurjmte I 
i of introducing " Poplar “ methods into London ' 
Bovemment. I tlurefore appeal to every , 
man and woman who votod for const it u - 
1 tional government at the Parliamentary election I 
in October Iasi to vote again on Thursday 
next far sound, saimi and economical municipal 
government. Failure to do so must inevitably 
result in grave damage and injury to oiu 
municipal sorvicee, to our trade and industry, ( 
and to the welfare and happinea* of the citizens : 
of London. 

REGINALD BLAIR, chairman. London 
Municipal Society and National Union 
of Ratepayers' Association*. 

Palace Chambers, llrtdgc-ntrcet. West, 
minster, S.W.I, Feb. ;tfl. 


Clipping: The Times, 27th February 1925 
“If Admirals can go to Trafalgar Square and deliver fulsome speeches to the 
British Fascisti, why should the members of the Army and the Navy in the 
lower ranks not be at liberty to join the Communist Party and carry on 
Communist propaganda?” he asked. 


292 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Early in April, Saklatvala moved an amendment to the Co-partnership Bill at 
its second reading. He returned to his strongly held conviction that cheap 
labour in the British Empire was causing unemployment and great hardship 
among the workers of Great Britain: “The factor which creates opposition 
between capital and labour is the unjustifiably existing capitalist, and the only 
way to remove opposition between capital and labour is to remove this 
interloper called the individual capitalist.” [Hon. member: “Are not you a 
capitalist?”] 

“Then remove me!” retorted Saklatvala. Once again, he was being identified 
with his capitalist family, from whom he was to be officially severed within the 
next few weeks. 


COMMUNISTS Ammo AT JAFFA. 

Mr ORM8BY-OORB. Vivflar-Sooretiry, 
Colonies (Salford), replying to Mi 
Sa*utvia | Bittern**. N., Cam.) mid j — Sfcx- 

t**n prenona »•**» armtod co tba day at 
I/ord Balfour's arrival in Jaffa «a a nu*i- 
strate'a' Warrant lor actio* likely to um 
an tu'matUnto breach of Lb* peace. Tbtty 
Tie" all member* of a snail Cammufitit 
group. Ko bicoch of U»e ptaoa actually 
oecurrwL Mr. SanarvAUL— M*r I ask 
whether his Many's Government coimc* 
»»ally devise a (don to introduce British 
clnlkaalioh Into other (mtifo'a countries with- 
out Mte u» of prison cells and alr-bowbol 
Hr, ORwuiT-OoiLK. — There If Communists 
Issued inflammatory aUacka on Lord Balfour 
ortho most insulting natim sad diatribe ted 
tBHfl about the town. 1 thick that the 
octfon .token by the I'oleotin* OorenuBemt 
abooluteiy essential ; otberdao there 
troilM hfje bpts a vary serjogs brooch of Um 
pofW. Mr li\jSj»TyaLa, — Would cot If 
young Bngliahmf« do the um* if an Arab 
chief eiu»e b«W to dictate to yon how yon 
alionld livq? • • 


Clipping: The Times, 25th February 1925 
In another debate he said it was cruel to divide people into those who worked 
with their brain and those who worked with their hands. “There is,” he said, 
“no worker who works by hand alone without working with his brain at the 
same time. No engine-driver, driving his mail train at the rate of 50 or 60 
miles an hour in a blizzard, is working merely with his hands. No spinner, no 
weaver, no smelter, no miner, no carpenter, no brick-layer, no stone-mason 
can do his work correctly if he does not use his brain just as much as the Lord 
Chancellor and the judges and lawyers and architects. Each individual worker 
works by his brain as well as by his hand, while a few lucky ones sit in easy 
chairs and pretend to work by brain and refuse to work by hand.” [Hon. 
member: “Like yourself!”] 


293 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“Like myself!” Saklatvala continued, “I do not claim to be an angel on earth. I 
claim to be full of all those vices, all those defects, all those drawbacks which 
the present hideous individual capitalist system imposes upon me. The only 
difference between me and hon members opposite is that I am willing to get 
out of it at the first possible moment...” 

So Saklatvala remained extremely active in the Commons, making lively and 
apposite contributions to many debates on a variety of subjects. At the same 
time, he remained as vigorous as ever in his political campaigning outside the 
House, travelling up and down the country addressing large and enthusiastic 
crowds of working people. Although we had very little money, Father never 
accepted anything in the way of expenses and travelled often at night (largely 
to save time, but also I think in those days there were concessional fares for 
nocturnal journeys). 

Whenever he had to change trains in the middle of the night, he would 
telephone my mother and have a conversation with her; he remained always a 
sentimentally ardent partner and tried to mitigate the loneliness he felt during 
these enforced separations by frequent telephone calls; just as when the House 
sat late, he would make a point of phoning her in the course of the evening to 
keep in touch. 






j&mtfctg Utorfee* 

TIIF ON1.Y I.AROl'R SIMMY NEWSPAPER 


a,A VS5S^! N AT “WILL COOK LET US DOWN ? MORE KOR NAV 






Clipping: Sunday Worker No l, March 1925 
In March 1925, The Sunday Worker newspaper was launched, to which he 


294 









THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


gave his support, being one of its founders. He journeyed to Dublin and 
addressed a large meeting there. He spoke in favour of the Labour candidates 
in Battersea during the London County Council Elections in February. He 
continued to give much attention to the Workers’ Welfare League of India, and 
a resolution was passed by the Executive Committee of the All India Trade 
Union Congress that the WWLI should be their representative at the Trade 
Union Congress in the UK. 

A journalist described how he was going up in the lift at the House of 
Commons to hear Oswald Mosley speak in one of the Committee rooms after 
his brief visit to India 

“I met Saklatvala, his head, as usual, deeply immersed in statistics. ‘On 
your way to hear Mosley?! asked. ‘Mosley!’ he exclaimed, ‘what can he 
know about India? Five weeks there at the outside! No’, he went on, ‘I’m 
going to hear Sir Willoughby Carey— he was Chairman of the Bengal 
Chamber of Commerce and he is a great employer of labour in Calcutta. 
He’s the man to listen to— not Mosley.’” 

[Editor’s note: Oswald Mosley, having begun as a Conservative, was at this 
time a member of the ILP and a Fabian. In 1932 he would go on to form the 
British Union of Fascists]. 

During the parliamentary debate on Winston Churchill’s budget speech in 
April, there was pandemonium and uproar in the House when Churchill 
accused working people of cheating over unemployment benefits. Labour 
members said he was insulting the whole Labour Movement and demanded 
that he withdrew the offensive remarks. Saklatvala rose and said: “The 
Chancellor of the Exchequer has brought about this disorder, and it falls upon 
a revolutionary Communist to restore order.” He proceeded to give a detailed 
and critical analysis of the budget proposals. 

Mr. WAKliATVALA iDattecaeA, 8.. OmO. 
rising to continue the delate, was rccereod 
»iti. iTTiH* of Tbride ” frmn tH« MminteriatUrb. 
but these died down, aad there wa* much 
laughter when the ben. member stud : — 

“ Thu ChiunclW i>f the Rxolunjucr having 
fsll.i.1 , it tsJU (u a Communist rev id 'Jt 1 1 xuo y 
to restore order.” 

At toe minutes to It o’tOoeh, wha'lo Mr. 

SAKLArvihi u*a suit sjicaUng, Mr. Bsu>vr:s 
moved Ihsli 1h*» qwesinm tm jiow fiuU A tlivi- 
Ktoti uv *i. first- challenged, hut was not }*jr- 
yisi.ii in, 

Tho original motion wm then agreed to. 
and liw Hih>h returned, 

Clipping: The Times, 1st May 1925 


295 




CHAPTER 15 


Banned from the USA 

Refused a visa to enter the USA in 1925 ; subsequent protests. 


One of the most notable events of Saklatvala’s career, which became quite a 
cause celebre in the press, occurred in connection with a conference to be held 


in Washington by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. 


tor tlu» second ttirni within a tlm 

GWotr Corporation ywt»c<Uy ended 

abnijKly, On each occ4»km tho tiauUi 
Wa5 Jf UH *° ******1 of the uutgijftaUMi to 

a DrftUh Cammqiufct P«f?r meeting 
Hal] it which *7. Saktotvahs 
M.r., to »p«ak. The labour group 
oustructsd the pro coed in ®i end brought. 

about » do mum. mowing tUit fwvmmdiU 

coca do ration should bo given to the auptica- 
tion tor » meeting when the mbwaker na* a 
^IcmW at Parliament. who had takun tlm ir\ih 
ot allegiance to the Kina and Cavtitutioa. 


Clipping: The Times, 19th August 1925 

In 1923 Father and Mother had attended the IPU conference held in 
Copenhagen, which my mother had greatly enjoyed; she often spoke of it to 
me in later life, when she recalled with nostalgia how the wives of the 
members had been entertained by the Danish royal family, and their friendly 
simplicity and lack of formality made a great impression on her. 


MINORITY MOVEMENT. 


CONFERENCE TN BATTERSEA. 

Commtmirt* in this country hove lately 
tweixnw more direct id their dcmoixts tor n 
prupsennda campaign among the rank and 
Me ot tbe Army, Kory, and Air Fotwv The 
subject was raised again, oo Saturday at Dim 
oatood nnaaal ixmfaretves ot the National 
Minority «h» body which H mIi- 

lrifi lu thin country to diraecoluats the doctrines 
ot revolutiocury Cormnun5sm through Jiercieo- 
tioc nt tlie trade unions. 

Tin* conference was ln4d in the Dattcmca 
Town llall. and it is stated that Ran* 600 
“ dcUgstrv " were present, “Including 137 
from the provinces," Mr. Tost Mask presided, 
and had with him on the platform Mr. SnJc'it- 
voli, UlO Communist 1LP. tor Butterreu, and 
th«* Moyer ol Battersea ;JUr. C. Mason). 

The Cbaikkas said that in the struggle with 
tlie min sown ers it ua» something to be glad of 
that tlie miners, b&cVail by trade union 
solidarity. ratocesctoiiy “ ?*.)d up *• tin iMVnere. 
Thsy had to ask themselves, he cootbiiMal, 
whether they were prepared to moot (he oppos- 
ing forms when tiro next round began. They 
must b« trunk and admit that at present tl*y 
were not ready. The problem ol getting public 
opinion on their aiita wes easier and tumpJur 
than the question ol the Faroes, 


It was their duty to start homed it t el y f, big 
campaign of propaganda among tlie workers in 
the Army. Navy, and Air Fores, in order that 
they should know tb» foil tenth of the matton 
Tbo Trade* Union Cocgrwn, tbs Labour Party 
Conference, tint local patty ocyanfcaticum. thu 
brails union bronebe*, the trades crmtirils tiie 
factory eamnUtteca, and the organisations of 
the unsruployed should get bus)- St, order to 
avoid tin* calamity which tlse rnltng classes 
were plutmioc. last tixan make cure that there 
wnqid not ha a slutfe soldier, oaQnr, or oitmiin 
who would dors to raise a lh #sr against their 
blMliua 

Mr b.utTyivraA sold (hot the owlets of tbe 
Minority Moremout for tlut workers were, 
e^joy lile. owl horn the 
uorld. A great struggle was coming along. Tl» 
Joiners probiem amid not be solved bv Huyfd 
bimmiiHioos Ho stood openly, he tfeciared, 
u b dctufiiliiFil oad coomy oi tu* 

Union Jack ond Kiltlsh Imperialism. 

rim a* a m 


296 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Clipping: The Times, 31st August 1925 

As anything of an international nature (anything but an international war, that 
is!) appealed to Father, he arranged to attend the 1925 conference in 
Washington. My mother elected not to go— she had visited the States many 
years before and had no wish ever to go there again. Father had two brothers 
in the states and, fond of his immediate family as he undoubtedly was, no 
doubt he must have been greatly looking forward to visiting his younger 
brothers, Phirozeshah and Beram. He applied for and received his visa in 
readiness for the trip. 

Sir Robert Horne and Colonel H.C. Woodcock then wrote to the Times 


complaining that Saklatvala was to be part of the British parliamentary 
delegation; Woodcock went as far as to say that if Saklatvala was included, he 
himself would refuse to attend. The Times wrote that Mr Kellogg, American 
Secretary of State, appeared to have no objection to receiving Mr Saklatvala. 


M.P.S’ DELEGATION TO 
WASHINGTON. 


COL. WOODCOCK AND 
MB. SAKLATVALA. 

r hare n*r«i ved fxmi UtlniuH 11. CL Woo.!- 
cnrl,, L niiMii.i M.lL for tAerton, % copy at thr*> 
fnUcunig Mia which h« hu adilrunyil to Mr. 
t. Msd.liwi. .Secretary of the Ini«r-I'nriU 
«Kat«r* I n ) 00 

, 1 it** invitation 

lo Vltit \\ Aililagtoa *wl (Htmw* 05 a HrttbJh 
oaiiplt At I he forthcoming iAttf-FvIm. 
mi-nUty Cunin'Kf 1 w*» unaware ut ttic (net 
IliBl Mr. -S.it, Intvai*, tlia (ommunlxi 1 |,p. far 
^oHIi Hatter**!, wax »lw> to 1 m; It nwoihn of 
ttu: .Irlrft/itlOo. 1 hjLVO .lore liuulo 01} Mil 

ociionnitatl witt) vkho of hit pubdio dcdara- 
lion*. among ->i irhl.-h I in», quote the fatluir- 

u*c r— 

_ JtStiKi rmrt? Jt ttub u|i rtf srtsUcrtllc till 

I d‘.*“ U IW “'" '* h * ' “ ““ u •nwSS 

tlvTi I* «» hu** ill am 

Uk Inim Jack rfuM o*k to luncuot. 

I UT. Lm in dnlKl <tLc Vluai rtrk." 

»ra but a fear t> picul quotation* from 
Hr. baUuivolii » uttoances, uai they fc*vu |«t 
me to the caneluaiua that, modi «• I wish 
*° tinL ' ,9t to tiie Luitnl .states 

stiil Canada, I must to hr in any way 

assodatml vrithadeLcgAC who holds such view, 
as Mr. .Sqklmvala lu^ .C|ir»w<i 


i hSTw had the haums*' to serve lot over 2{i 
>*«* in hw Maleuy'x Rmw, and o » local 
subiort to 11. M_ thy Kin it I think 1 ..Would 
Ek< dvdoyal to them with whom 1 have served, 
st»d to my cotudiUieata wVio have neot me to 
I'artMmciit In maintain tlor Lulugnty of our 
zrcat Kuipire, if 1 eoeueuEyd to be a follow 
deJcgaU with cot uho«o loyulty and tnunwt 
arn opposed to Dim no an try. 

The danger of misunderstanding nod mlv 
representatioa hi too great to ibrw? who do 
not undct>i«jiil the feoiatyd pomtian which 
ilr. JMiklaUxl* holds in thm umntry. 

. radit UiyMy cwcomstanee* I am foreud to 
the decision that If he rom m a nrprtaouUitivc 
of tb* Parliament of Great Itrttain, fo spite 
of my great disappointment. I must deeitnoi 
to lx luaucudmi with the dvUpjitJon. »«.» 
much M 1 regret it. 1 must ask ><*i to with- 
draw my na«)u from the lt»t of Brvtkn dclunt« 
Yours truly. ' 

H. CL WoopooCK. 

House of Cummcos. 


Clipping: The Times, 8th September 1925 
Further letters were sent to The Times asserting that other members would 
withdraw from the delegation if Saklatvala was to be a part of it. One member 
wisely observed that if all members withdrew as a protest, this would leave Mr 
Saklatvala as the sole representative in Washington of the British House of 
Commons! 


297 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


A report from America published in the British press said that Senator Borah 
conferred with President Coolidge and Mr Kellogg and afterwards said that Mr 
Saklatvala should not be excluded from the USA. He added: “This man has 
been free to express his opinions in England, and our government cannot 
afford to be more afraid than the British.” 

But at the last moment, on 16th September, Mr Kellogg announced that 
instructions had been telegraphed to London to revoke the passport visa that 
had been granted earlier to Mr Saklatvala. All the newspapers headlined the 
news of his exclusion. Many speculated that the revocation of the visa could 
only have been on advice from the British government. 


298 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Clipping: The Sphere, 1925 

Under a full-length photograph of Shapurji and Sehri in their London garden, 
The Sphere wrote, “It seems so obvious to me that Mr Saklatvala might, in a 
party of 41 members, be expected to suffer some measure of modification of 


299 





THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


his extreme views, and that there was no virtue in making a hero of him.” 

The Morning Post correspondent wrote that the paper had arranged to send a 
reporter to Washington to report on the conference, but that since Mr 
Saklatvala was not to be a part of it, they would not bother to send anyone: 
“There is nothing in it for us if Mr Saklatvala is not there.” 


Ai-trr fhfi New Ycrk 

,r * Wiuliiiigtsc ’.bey will h* Hi* ^uut, 
Wf 'itt Jluap, uliil. wlU reccj'.x- 

luJ^.a;. ana UnuUf»:rt frc* CS Mb 
iho xn will U, oltcNd by 

Uoumliiin [roup uii D <-r-,irn tcrr.- 
tac y It Blurt h« iWiufiuXkinH <-*l. tlii 
n'yut>:r» u( izf deW-i-Xmi n> — no 
»U*«d Crcrr, tb* cl<l*uL.v. r vU Irp 
»hn Wkjil omJiuVICU tittl lining lu-u 

»lrtT - ttu r- •wd Sun* •}«•)• tU do 

w • >K Ul llttMrt. till -edtliiur uwOir of 

ujn»riniv.^jil'gOT»«7TKi»tnt. 

'■olurei VV Minorca looter v»u or . 
VMUmJuy ATfefnOCfe ul * im«tic£ 
lot «-*■* tmiilwi c£ i-e b’Jlidi giirap nt 

lit? fc'-?Pir:Hnur1oi7 Uni under 

«-e Jirosij.m-V c* !<tr Home 

Alter a fjiorl iliinuvKin d i^ul u^rooii 
•j"* looiufoiy -^t-ronry af ilia rwcu 
f^*". ¥• WuMliaf-! klinnH trod ilm 
fiillovnng -woly •— 

l*c*f Cfllaw. Wrftlovi,-! tut-* t!jiy. 

: b&v: tlK4*ahi II ut^uy to 
puf pbce is. It# Mr.rKh IJ.vji* cf U# 

] ti-.T>p4#.*Mii. C44/V lio>xa vh/ii V -#a% -n» r 

•o I i^v.-xocj it Witt,-’p w . c ?rt . 

Jill permit m 1v oy tint I rtJuk y;a ltt 
dtcaj m » tn.1v A diM^ituuivJrp, 

va c lrjt«r-J‘«Xh»r •Silu.-r P rtn- u rtla 

r*»*€ it a fcjtu t xu-ny lUr'MuuU. >bo 
*?•£* 4 ( |<iTLa.hI •. W, uaoiK* 

" Pulatxranl ir*y foil LAl Cmnr, .»tut 
n»«C4l*«t '4 loi.u u rat'rtsl Vi l>: urw«>f/, 
61 all <*rrt*«rar- • U tb# Lnko. mi f A 
Buutrxu! Irsii t V sv tv. feriatiu 

».tij Lb Aiu-mVa n Imv* ust A A 01 . 
ftr. XtAlitw < r. 6 xumUr ;|u K^ITvI. 
PvrUcnx^., tot W.# i.id*J the LjVt Pw.-tla? 
Ki^tai* Lew, Ul b thifvioco earHVd |« jv, 
t,c tod liar. ooLnaar*' Y„ 

lutcntm ei »■*• Yvi, ut^ldo. hi| 

Iu=i in In* IWi <L jut m %vi am 

'•«lr:c:«d ertt alrc m a * >n«u sia.br :f 
Hx»» tt r.’fuu'tiA 
lb* tlrrnp *>i*K r.j A^iir^ + ,» 

* A-.cv’l.ua. occ U:n« It hw \ii: rs^rru ll>i«# 
«< a li. j to I oV^vcoi, an: lb. 

ixntoA -?I»->»/ M y, may bxli n;. -; illnmrit 
PliiAa o 4 Yirjr. H U „\,ri Hereof. v >U t 
V C«try rocahA- rf h* RAI jL >Jroc.r 


to l.tk, . rl *j aim: :cutm a# yn* -r.^ Xn 
ri||ljt jyiur d:r*» *i u " u-iKn 
•< Ua drj:Ui r*rl»iL_Atil Lu 

t»*Ar<UOt/ 

«rMh l‘i» | 


u uwiihr 
r*"^f >b« 
t-M Aedfob ulim, aArijv 
UAnbci l< 10 qth*r jfirl nionta 


M i'.’S DELEGATION 
TC) WASHINGTON. 


RUTTLSII GROUP AND 
MR. SAKLATVALA. 


RErr.Y TO COLONEL 
WOODCOCK. 

T»r Puj-lbiBiMftnry Ovm.ipaa<3ciiC) 

H li Iiu» Mvpreduj j^y rrtJw. 

nrted^r of PAHyMucui ,.hn bud dMuXutl 
o loin Urn Ekitbli .Ui^jbMon Ic tlit* 
inuir.Pi.r>iwrurMiCttrv XTr.inn Cuilinnc. 

A IVn-huitiUui »ad crtviuni will folloo 
Inert Ml. by Crt)cc:l a. fi. Wlvx*,Xk. 
d.l # ., ulm Jysfl Y4tSJn.wn bw Mu. 
n lit® 1 TGilE/1 tint Vr. S.Ufdii'u, 11 k 
.'kwrmnlW nusnlwr rf Huiam <4 

.•vobmxw.. L 10 In -ee rt \c* oaotiulw 
II Lw bM*i kjtmm {c.r 0CIUJO AivV# 
:««*l ihnt Er. ^uklatv^In mWlKlcii In 
»tWml th* dldiicvub, kd hf ri*il lyJuct 
kiU Held hi l'j>yjhaf 7 r. r.vir. U |»c^ 

»Dd CLu rnnt*3rr it 66 dm'jxii ^ ^ rrmfh^w 
i[ i*4 British ft/v-ii dtirm^ tyi V'.%. IIu. 
rALUb'y w«rr it Wuj j;K*i fainted 
>dt, «£rj dui i;rou}i nrr#^H. li^v 

»vCfV KannH«y> n* l'fL-imLjuiil ->hj> b?!xiJ> 
0 {tut L i-^c. han a J>2iJi>j L rivTA I'' .erf— i-L 
Jm ixxifotttu* .r h* eo <>iuva. Member* 

im nnl bjr tb^ir CKUtl.t, k# »», 

J»» W* .^l£h tin* Krr.po f*6r-aiii^uit«y 
1 m r» 1 rnvc . blue* t'*^ ruimJtce I-a* In hr 
rt\ny L.istilvr nf L'uiuu v.^j 
j *nhinc to ±<+j Lia Irani IiLduinn ; 

■j aw. i Ott and b«uU mny join Qn| 
Mrtgr. 

■ a * ■ . 


vhn 61O to lunilO. at W-J.l. k -L M • IKat, 
^ nv *^T» h i>.k m r«nh ahM fia} ' aviid 
Aum. 

1 1** rrprntoft of t.*«« ^Way^tioiL w21 
Knjjiaod in Um Cnnoiiu on fhcdttuj- 
l^c l^i Vd WdJ tlbvU. drum Nmr Ycck 
by Houeml tcoio Ott, ItptMLliir '(j to 
H'CckLia^ti:i|, wicw tba CuaTimr.^ 

rjMri in. lui i>fi4ol on Ootofc or 1.* The 
Wculiujgtrn OIWROOS Of tirt tnnfNw;.: 
will cicio cm J ntdn tlai 

S*V?fl via Iw.Hi fur Ycrk.* On 

OotuUv 10 rhnjr w>l| Niuiiwna lYilte. 

Arv 2 ti*ea tm.f#— J r#i HninilroTi. T&D-cibi, 
•> 1 *^ 6 , Umilmil, atvH QujOIuL At 
LKltHi 6 Trill h* falJ Ua 

Htrw d PArtUunMi'*. Amfig ttur mb 
to be diurjaial atm tk#i -w u:p 
wm* «f kiVijuViiuic] Utir, 
cuatmrn, the pctioei ct nnliiiiM] mhw —A. 
t>M. dttlk’ 4 , tlia rafinc'lMa d 

arr-xrr^l^. ana. Uki Furli*m-n'Xijy 
■vnt^TTl. Sir Rofcctl Hunx will bmd tii! 
<W*ywt>-r- chil OMIlUiV. anil tt IS 

W^i thl* '.ht> Fncich dKi^itkn Trill 
iudiuln M. Hemnc, aoi tjumsa« 

OvUi^nuimi Hrrr l^trth. 


7b f-:L>j»rfar 'wnhilHi ata [iw ai ] lAaairrv 
fl nfly ul 6 nxcitfl nail In thn 71r>iuj Cuuli- 
cuM.r-df nut. ycrvcnUr >— 

[? r lf xra sf It# litr.il Orw-MAjia: Cat 

•Jy 1 *? t u h IO rw Ml • 

lO'KrtU.f -» l*r*|f* l^rillCC 


Clippings: The Times, 9th September 1925 
The Daily Telegraph reported a huge protest meeting held in Battersea: 

“For some hours before the building was opened there were long queues 
extending around the Town Hall, and when the doors opened, there was 
a wild rush for admission. The hall, which is capable of holding 2000 
people, was quickly filled, and an overflow meeting was held... 

“To cheers from his audience [Saklatvala] is reported as saying that for 
the last four months attacks had been launched against him, 
underground and overground, and he had resisted them all with a smile 
of indifference. ‘I stand by every word of the columns I have spoken,’ 
said Mr Saklatvala. ‘I have not spoken these words with any feeling of 


300 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


hatred for the people of Britain, or through any nationalist emotion at 
being an Indian. I challenge any honest person to face me with them on 
a public platform. Great Britain has no right to rule India any more than 
Germany had a right to rule Great Britain.’ 

“His passport for America was in his pocket, he said, his passage was 
paid and his baggage was packed; three or four men were watching his 
house, and saw his luggage on the steamer. And, like the allies, they had 
to send an SOS to America to win their battles for them. The first thing 
America did in answer to the appeal was to adopt most unconstitutional 
and unreasonable methods. If America were so thin-skinned, if she 
always lived in terror of Bolshevism, if she had not the back-bone of a 
man, if she were afraid of the voice of truth on behalf of the workers, she 
ought not to have given out pompously and said, ‘We welcome all the 
world’s representatives to a world’s conference.’ 

“He was ready to go to America now and face any tribunal or any 
Committee of the Senate or any public meeting. If any one of the British 
Delegates had the courage of a man, let him come out on a public 
platform. He took no exception to being classed a poor, common 
immigrant, he added, he only represented the poor devils of Battersea. 
(Cheers)...” 

After this demonstration of popular support in Battersea, some of the more 
reactionary elements of the constituency tried to organise a petition to the 
Mayor, asking him to prohibit Saklatvala (their elected parliamentary 
representative) from holding any further meetings in the Town Hall. Nothing 
came of it. A number of resolutions protesting against the ban were prepared 
to put before the Washington conference. 

George Lansbury wrote in the press: 

“The American government, by its action, has made Comrade Saklatvala 
a political figure of international importance... The action of Coolidge 
and Kellogg was that of the usual capitalist cowards. Liberty to them 
means liberty for those who will do and say what the capitalists want 
them to say or do... It is well that in so public a manner, American 
statesmen should reveal themselves for what they are. Today in 
America, hundreds of men are in jail for their activities on behalf of the 
Workers’ Movement... hundreds of foreign workers are being deported 


301 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


for their activities in the Labour Movement... 

“There is no reason why any of us should feel disgruntled because of the 
action taken against Saklatvala. It is good that the world should know 
that all anti-Labour governments now are united in hunting down those 
who wish to overthrow capitalism. I do not agree with all Saklatvala’s 
policies or methods, but I do believe in freedom, and certainly believe in 
his ultimate aim, which is the aim of all true socialists, namely, the 
overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of Socialism.” 

In the US, Senator Borah refused to address the conference, the chief reason 
being that he objected to the ban on Saklatvala. The American Civil Liberties 
Union held a huge protest meeting in New York to coincide with the arrival of 
delegates to the conference. 


302 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


MR SAXLATVALA. 


PR0TE8T TO CONSUL- 
GENERAL 

SIR ROBERT HORNE ON 
THE BAN. 

(By Oar r*r I In mattery OWTWp-it) 

. ^ 4#cwnn at 11m Anancto mrMkjori- 
to wwfel tV p as yo -ff V t*k Krwted to 

Mr Solus", il*.. ih* iVranwa v. xmalw 
°" riiMaumi* wan nW*ftlly ct>m- 
mi ins rwt cd to lion vwwUv awl to 
Mr. F. MmJduon, tin w*'r*f,ary of the 
Bntoh bftmrh of Inter (WUftoitfllary 
I'lmai, uruW wbc m Asatintt th» Hrihga 
tloo, of wtoch Ht. SnUstva'a was to 
Mvt bsaa * mambct. Uavs* fur that 
I’nttad 8U*«s sod Ca&sd* la-tsuimm. 
Mr. Mafctboft at «oce got inxu nocn 
rr.imio4Ai.jfi with Colonel Woolcurk «ul 

S»r RoMa* Bird, vio had dnelmsd to 
wako rhe jaunty h> Kinr am Mr. 
NunatvW* maairnd a (imbtr of Os 
party, and rwnvsl rspljea irceo thorn 
that they wouU mow he pleated to 


rmjam ASte -Vkvsfcou. 

TV <sm of Obptacs. Peter Macdonald, 
MP . ■ snn wifca <liftv«u. Hs sa- 
nounood that the peeKa*?* of Mr. Rakiat 
w * a Ms itsuua few withdrawing 
CfOaa ihndilnjariou. bat ho kail pvwnauaiy 
inrimuUd that hosirwsa rcuou prwvauted 
niffi frun ivamg to the UiutsJ BtaSw. and 
■ g M M V snrrtW UaidCiWt msmbur 
rnght be willing to taka ©var his cabin 
a»anrni£AKiatiaB^ As the utlnr number 
egrasd to do so, Captain will 

**"» be e cunnber r.< »iw peril. 

Tb" Mtiu of the Amen pen MitfaxiUec 
MOOMBded IIhU to moot of (be iDcubhen 
cfl t hs AcVgsUun as ths beet way oMt of 
Uwunionvntto{Kottinnwhi.h h*J eraon. 
Thta fmlinc »'•* nunmi her fW Robert 
ll fl ft s , who M to lsad t xm <hlw»Us. 
aad who Mad inautad throughmittiiat m 
many asmbsi of IMbAaedt as prsMNs 
ought in g! I in order to count* the «fT».t 
<n any epcenhee that Mr Sek-KTala 
nUBht utU Sir Robert eUtad »— 

I UUiX UK Ur OiOaultj etlrh nc nM 
Vf Mr. haklemU'. because k p k O. 

Oial .^lr. K •Kkfle lee K rrrP.rd 

th. t—t >-edkk uUnltm. Pp to. «ede? be bee 



MR. SAKLATV ALA’S 
LETTER 

Mr. Suldulvi A. r vteve ere explained 


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Clipping: The Times, 18th September 1925 
It is interesting to note here the speech which Saklatvala had made when 
addressing the Inter-parliamentary Conference in 1923: nothing could have 
been more pacific— indeed its sentiments might be expressed by any of our 
modern and moderate speakers in defence of today’s Common Market. He had 
said: 

“The resolutions before the Conference are quite clear and, to put the 
matter briefly, they appeal to our sense of fair play and common 
brotherhood all over Europe and all over the world. The war-guns 
boomed and are silenced... and they have left the world worse than it 
was when they began. We have therefore to come round to the position 
of everybody playing fairly towards others, the stronger ones helping the 
weaker ones, and the weaker ones playing fairly again towards the 
stronger ones when they themselves become strong once more. (Hear, 
hear!) 

“I may be pardoned, Mr President, if I am rather personal, but I speak 
with a particular faith in the existence of fair-play and the spirit of 
brotherhood. After all, who am I? One of a conquered and vanquished 
race, a subject Indian, conquered by another nation. Well, here I am in 
this great Conference because of that spirit of fair-play and brotherhood 
that does exist in Great Britain and does exist in other parts of Europe. 
“Coming from the British section I may say that only the other day Great 
Britain signed a treaty with Turkey. Turkey was defeated in war... Great 
Britain would like to have a Treaty more advantageous to herself, but 
still she did not land soldiers in Constantinople and go forth to conquer, 
but followed brotherhood and fair-play, and peace for the future. We 
could have done so towards Russia, but still Great Britain refrained, and 
I am sure will refrain, from any hostile act against Russia... 

“If I may ask you... to hark back to what happened immediately after the 
War. I would remind you that our friends from America sat at the 
conference table and the other Allies drove the US President to sign a 
Peace treaty which, according to his conviction, was against the spirit of 
brotherhood and fair-play... that has resulted in driving America away 
from the brotherhood of Europe. 

“We want America back (applause). We want Germany, Russia, France, 


304 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Italy, Belgium, Great Britain all to unite together on a basis of fair-play... 
we do not want national victories on our banner now. We want human 
good, human equality, and the uplifting of human beings to be the 
objects inscribed on our banners now... 

“We have got to talk of reparations not in terms of money penalties but 
in terms of human happiness and human peace and human gladness, 
which is all we want to see upon the earth. When there is peace in 
Europe there will be peace in Asia. When there are good relations 
between these European nations there will be good relations between 
the others... 

“We want all countries and all political parties— and I include my friends 
the Communists of whom I am one— we want them all to seek the good 
of their neighbours and not their downfall. We want Germany to 
understand that if France is suffering from devastation and injustice, 
Germany has proved herself a bad neighbour; we want France to 
understand that if Germany is steeped in misery and poverty and 
injustice, France is a bad neighbour. We do not want our own homes to 
be in bad order, or the homes of our neighbours, but we want an era of 
peace and full confidence and brotherhood and fair-play, and this will 
not be realised by reparations. (Applause.)” 

Certainly nothing Saklatvala said at that conference could justify his being 
denied access to the IPU conference of 1925. 

[Editor’s note: In July 1926, Saklatvala sent the following cablegram to 
President Coolidge, as reported by the International Herald Tribune: 
“Congratulations on 150 years of national freedom and social progress. Your 
nation must feel thankful there were no Kelloggs with Immigration Acts then 
to ban George Washington and other revolutionary spirits from entering the 
country.”]. 

It was during all the hullabaloo over the ban on Saklatvala’s admission to the 
States that he resigned officially from Tata. His brother, Sorab, came to 
England for the first and only time that year, largely to bring pressure to bear 
on Father, whose widely proclaimed communism was proving an 
embarrassment to the capitalist firm. He and his wife, Auntie Mehri and 
three-year old daughter, Rhoda, stayed in the Cecil Hotel. Rhoda was 
accompanied by her Nanny, a concept of family life entirely new to me. I was 


305 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


overwhelmed with pity for her, since it seemed to my six year-old mind, that 
she was closer to the Nanny than to her Mother. I clung to my mother like a 
limpet during the whole of their stay. 

Father’s letter of resignation was addressed to Tata Ltd in London and read: 

“Dear Sirs, I may briefly state that I have been studying the recent trend 
of events arising out of my political activities and views. I candidly 
admit that at the present juncture one’s political obligations require at 
times a somewhat uncompromising stand, irrespective of ones personal 
interests. In my case, I realise, that with the prominence of your office 
as an outstanding East India House, and with my relationship with the 
leading members of the firm in Bombay, this sacrifice does not, and will 
not, stop at a voluntary surrender of my personal advantages, but it may 
unjustly operate as an unnecessary and unjustifiable harm to others and 
to the firm’s standing in commercial banking circles. Such criticism may 
be uncharitable now and yet it may grow day by day. Therefore, after a 
full and calm consideration of the question, with the benefits of 
consultation with my brother in London, I have decided to offer my 
resignation from your firm as Manager of the Cotton Mills Department, 
as I can do so without inconvenience to you with your preparation made 
ready for my absence in America. 

“In this step I assure you of the inseparable good will on my part 
towards all the members of the firm, and I am sure of the continuance of 
the same on their part...” 

Interviewed by a Sunday Worker representative, he said he did not regret the 
step: “My services in the cause of the struggling workers... will now be able to 
command my fuller attention.” 


306 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


MR. SAKLATVALA 


VISA REVOKED BY 
U.S.A. 

Waaaiaurcui, Sapt- IS. — Mr. Ktlfugg. 
the Hecrntory of Stale, aiuiDimnee llt&t bi- 
Htructiofis have been telegraphed to 
London to revoke the piwsport vista granted 
to Mr, S*t )h.1v- » la M.P_ because of in- 
I fla mm at n ry revolutionary speech** in 
Parliament ai>d elsewhere. 

( “ I do not believe w Mr. Kellogg added, 

I '* that we should admit foreigners to the 
country to preach anarchy. — fteuler. 

RESIGNATION FROM 
MESSRS. TATA. 

We aro officially informed by 
Tata, Limited, that Mr. KakfetvaU. M.P.. 
yesrarday metgjied hia position as a 
departmental manager in the firm, Hia 
1 maipvation was conveyed to tlie firm in 
\ tiro following letter : — 

tf, New B rout -street. Lotwloo, E.C.. 
S*pt. I«, 1*85. 

Kwen. Tata, Limited. 68, New Breed- 
Unit. B.C. 

Lear Ssrs.—I may bfiefiy state that I have 
b***n ufodying the reeeut tomd ot Inal! 
ariuna out of my politico! ocUviUwi acd vWw>. 

I amuidly admit that at the |,nwn! Juncture 
On»'» pofitkal obUgntioea require at timm a 
imroewhat uooamproiabang stand, irre- 
spective of one'* punmsJ interest ». I a tar 
«um I Ktallxc that with the prominence of 

J o«r office a* an outstanding Fast India 
oumi. and with my reiatlocuhip wttli Um 
leading member* of Uiu Onn ia Bombay. »>■;. j 
aacrifkoa dlxc a on*. and will not. stop at a 
voluntary suzrende? of my pcr*n* 4 *| ad- 
vantage*. bat tt may up j«wt ty opw*t« mt 
an vaiwoouary and unjustifiable harm to 
<ithac« and to the nrm's standing in coin- 
marrJal and hanking circles. Such cntlclwn 
may ho uncharitable ww and yet it. mar 
grow day by day, Therefore after a full unil 
caim coosiderattan of the quretraa, with the 
ban-file of t-onauHation with my brother ia 
L ocolon. I liavu decided to offt* «ny rwdglta- 
tion from your firm as the manager of the 
cotton m.il!« department, at I an do so with- 
out inconvenience to you with your prepara- 
tions made ready for my aba-nee in Amuri co- 
in Ibie etap I annire you of the huwjurablo I 
good *:u osi my part Inwards all the u.-mbwe 
of tba Otm. amt I am sure of the continuance 
| of the eamu on their port. 

Yours fait I, fully. 

(3d. I Mbati tui iJ.tCi*TV*TJt. 


Clipping: The Times, 17th September 1925 
On 25th May 1925, the Home Secretary had announced to the House that 
certain delegates from Germany who intended to attend the annual conference 
of the Communist Party of Great Britain to be held in Glasgow, had been 
refused permission to enter the country for this purpose. There was a lively 
debate initiated by Jimmy Maxton, claiming that the conference of the 
Communist Party was a perfectly legal and bona fide event and that to exclude 
these fraternal delegates from the country was a denial of the rights of free 
speech. Maxton was supported by several other members on the Labour 


307 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


benches and during the course of the debate, it was claimed that German and 
British members of the employing class were getting together and making 
agreements, so members of the working class of both countries should also be 
allowed to come together under the auspices of a legally constituted political 


Party. 


Ifte l'i£lu«ioa at Mr. Suldaiyala. 

7 W vntteitlim Mil Shattoji ftitum-Au 

It) CC&Hnf.itny »f-< Ebitbd* " ddtgalion "• to Um 
I nto l’*/li*m»nL».-y CcedttuuM at WuMuaUai 

ia* h**n fautMMd hy (hs Gavttnrowii <d tho 
Uc-tae! Scalx** AiWr • wtlttitlOi wi (h 
»«vt CccraiiiE Ms, Kautu, th» dcmcfo/y <d 
Stat*. teiuecnawd that iuiin*>ti-r», had bum 
otfcioJ lu lit* A^xjozom < <m,ul n r owthunliw. 
in Lhii nirmtfy ta fwiul tho j‘ — ■ - • 1 i(id 
panted to Uw <bmmmii»t UP, lor 
No/li Bi.ur».» Thi» Bitco had tn*t_ taton 
oa aoxuM. of Mx SJuru-n au's iidLunmnimy 
al ..«fcrs, in fufiuan t and «U*rwlMff. Would 
Ui tranipantd who- in knowu tu hold •nt»Tfr- 
*iva nr rwroJub-iUxrv rim*,, to cwny co props 
aanda hwoito to Ainsiwi poliiioil iricirntMas, 
am Mtctadod twin th* Dnkui Klutro ; m>t Ha. 
Kfa. n jnQ fn inatmj tha opmiuu this in Ihji :itt. 
nd other ounw mu c« ltiXLmo, with tho Anuui- 
f «D ltoto%r*tnn I an Thungf S&U 1 U fiiVUM 
hi* tnlidxd thu ulhdal drr.-es,n 111 impolitic, 

il carrot so UtlyrwH cc Le»il tjnwfe. Jin. 

Rkuooo uaWiiI might oil] rvtnrt that be 
wotiW tnihiir «xii'.xn on motor of nn:h notorioti) 
rotompteux* U rg*»ro h n Mx Sinnri-. 
than bu oea i jailed to deport Mm 
£Uocu Mx ‘Uri.vcvala find combmed finn- 
C.;:iirt TVlIameutarj aotiTicy In (hi* iinnmy 
wit) tho n-niicrnrrr p ol a dmwtnwnt c i a 
grtnt Indian mpirslilt heufio wldlh hr Hie Ju»t 
xsirtuaj, ha ho* dcilVtovd a nnrahar ol l|m>Ja> 
which tolly merit the dwripbca -zt *uhv»r*iv* 
*nd trvohitouiry. 'A*n svav xw nano to 
ninioee that Lu nHnmnow would b* 1 m ! :wd 
ir. tha Sto Worhl C an in tin Old. FwJuc. 

KtoJ, in yjiiln u( th* ira«r_mU daitripnrQ ot 
tbt litilidi Pnrliamtoitrv group who baivn lur 
Ui* Timtod Staler and Canada in- marrow mu a 
"dtlantrn," lea mcrohui bni no rflfcjd to 
mjmmantaJtrva otohiiht wbitr/rr, Toe . . .... 1 ... 
ic*? Xnrth Ksdcwii npnwctr oeitbee tho 
Br.ttnj Cove t nmiw i tier |bi Uonoae al Uumnnin 
Any member at P*r}i«=n»n( o»jr >ton tha onirr 
and atuod !*• n.Tnf*renr«, An din Htnor 
i.*U?l*mHnni«irii goloCd out ae Irwg «go 
Ol 10 OB, 11m etcJenrof nf tho LtUv-Farliun ir-. 
ary fnicc in an unofficial gulJtftfirg. ’ihc 
r-Af.-xty o> three «bo *u*ud is and all jla 
Briuh memhera aev hot um.V’bd .Jeltaaim uf 
any I'tttlinmiul or nF *iry rirrhllDQTiLily ^ariy- 


l\lDtt u£ it# charaater would Lo'.m 

tcwenWI none htliln cnllowm ci tho Go vitn- 
munt and o< Partuunrcs Fnr " pmnlttiOE " a rmm- 
tu. inn aiy Cuaimuiiiii 4o aoeempony ,-Jirc 
tnoiilao nl Padiamsnt to IVaihington, lho 
auarion ot " poreninkjc " Aum not mk. II 
Mx iSurATTAu. ho apila ui tl:* itrrrot al aw 
American tin), ln idi nd on eenbaxkltig ua a 
LtriDai idGip iaiuiid to N'rv \orjc, ttm (hvan* 
SMiit rirald rjil jirermt ham, as long an lh> 
nmintry remained it puox w>Ji die Uerted 
btaiei. hpafiy Ilia inanbimliiy ol the i‘rjLiCi 
liynidaltoi wiiidd give him no right to land ki 
d.liWKi ui iha dBarieit. Immagraton Low. 

lu liplaini.-g why the Amefioan aiaa w*a 
uriktoillly ptanlad to Mr. HictArriU etaju 
granmi hMtnxjtiom to admit the <Adn«*.t>« nf 
all ansowirw atumdlrg the Intst , PaeUauuurary 
Union, Mn, Kkowi dii* iliMitiui to wa of 
Lxi Kitnt fpecehoa which had mjy jog acoo 
to tbc howhdig ui tin DipartaoaRt. ViMlhet 
i» »i> i»rC wdviiwl in pnyiug (hem ('*■« oomptb- 
mrnt tit ipattaHon i* hHjhttiil. thoagb tt*0 klinul 
Iriendiy rrmtinsHcc ot Mo. P sc ITWII.I'.I inur 

of rergpariort to Mntns. Txu [whioi. m 
priLuibod in Tho Trtuvr ui yia(«r4a^*l tnigiir 
ulLuredto SUioaool that thaw ii MtmaUtir.g td the 
** jiaainnr Bnhiaviii " in da M.T 1 . tor X-.etli 
ISartmea. It in certa&ly lutprliittu to £md m 
utlvanMd Connounllt ft wnmin *11 tin urnW. 
ui * capitalist him cl Ui* " ccMpinlt I r good 
“ will." Ihittielilh U* ha* had bie tdvoitiie 
ir-ent- Hia airopW. «l th* memhccs of Cl) 
Br.Uih group who declined to viaii the 
United friar** and Canada m tin caiiij-aity 
rood trouble them no ui;m, and many cd 
theta will daubtlut 1 til ilm tW artVw. nf the 
dtade Uefnrtmeftt haa pnihaniy mid them from 
dm duty ui hluriiic^ «;rd apnlcgisrnj Jet hti ton- 
rvprovnCalivn mtraRrogwrrees. Unit puinU litilr- 
ovft, in Mx IkEtxoon'a talm* ui dw 
•tiwli action dttttvt* eumactiun. Me iprwhi or 
Mx f iA i i t jL r vXiA end agitatcct al tm t> p. a* 

lUj-f.irlan. lA at.jnhy. iiut is. Kuwlo, whx-a 


Clipping: The Times, 18th September 1925 
The Home Secretary, Joynson-Hicks, said that the policy had always been to 
afford free speech to our own nationals but not necessarily to foreigners: “I say 
frankly that we have a right, as an imperial government, to prevent these men 
coming in for destructive purposes... they [the government] do object to 
having Communist Party doctrines enlarged, improved and spread by 
agitators from abroad...” 


308 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


To which Saklatvala replied: “On the same democratic principle, would 
Indians also have the right to say by a majority that no Englishmen should 
enter their country; or would the Chinese have the right to say that no 
Christian missionaries should enter their country?” 

Joynson-Hicks said sarcastically, “I had not noticed that the Communist Party 
had arrived. It is perfectly clear that wherever, in any country, there is a 
democratic House of Commons and a democratic government, that 
government has the right to do what it considers to be in the best interests of 
its people.” 


TITE REVOKED VISA. 


MR. KELLOGG’S REASONS. 

(non ova ovrw cuaunoiiDm > 
WASHINGTON. Kbit 17. 

TTm decision to revolt* tie passport 
rise of Mr. SskJttvik >noDuiu«a by the 
Secretary of State, Mr. Kellogg. Mat ‘night 
has aroused none cnriaam in the United 
State*. Senator Borah, who has dwaiased 
the question with Mr. Kellogg, has painted 
out that any utterance* here of that dele 
gate to thus inter-PartianMutury Union 
would hardly have been as dangoroiw u* 
the publicity given to him by refusing 
him admis&m to the United State*, 
and the recent case of Count Karotyi, 
who observed hie vow of silenco in the 
United States, only to crow the Canadian 
border kkI ay elf that ha wished to ay, 
will (support this Oocitentim. There i* 
also an apparent lack of official eon. 
■fctaiicy in the fact tlsat the Russian 
Soviet* maintain an office and publish 
a " Trade Review ” in Washington with 
out iote ii fe c aade from the authorities. 

It is not eomaasteooy that the State 
Department tecta, however, a* much as 
that prevention which is better than 
cun* Mr. KsUqg* would rather refuse 
admission to Mr/bsklatvala than later 
find himself furred to mart to de- 
portation, and if he is correct in the 
assumption that the Battersea mma- 
ber'i mtomperaooo of 8 pooch could be 
counted on to hiring rum into con- 
flict with American law. he has probably 
talon the least troublaaosna course. 
The Secretary of State's raniii>der that 
Mr. S»k(«l v»la “ ia not ippointai by 
the British Government, nor selected by 
any authority of the British Govern- 
ment " and his conclusion chat thorn is 
accordingly “no reuaon why be should 
be con*id«v*d esesupt from the inunigra 
teon law, any met* than the humblest 
immigrant who bolds subversive or 
revolutionary vferw*,“ is sufficient 
indication that, no proteat is expected 
from cho Bnuah Foreign Ofboe. 


Clipping: The Times, 18th September 1925 
Saklatvala asked him, “Do the government make the democracy, or do the 


309 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


people of the country make the democracy?” 

Joynson-Hicks explained, “The government is the expression of the views of 
the people of a democratic country,” to which Saklatvala rejoined, “In 
conquered countries would the government have the right to express the views 
of the people? Were the Germans expressing the views of the Belgian people 
during the occupation? If the Russians conquered England would they be 
expressing your feelings?” 


This debate on the exclusion of the German delegates to Scotland throws some 
light on the feelings engendered by the later exclusion of Saklatvala from the 
United States of America. Saklatvala and Joynson-Hicks were often to cross 
swords in the House, and Joynson-Hicks was one of only a few members who 
showed a personal animosity towards the Communist member; he was to 
make it patently clear the following year. 


JTIf, SAKI.ATVALA AND HIS 
PROPAGAN DA. 

Mr. N \ k utvau, Communist M.P. for North 
Import i«M k* n member of 
tb» British grrap to the ConfimiKe of the 

Inter- r*trtUn>mt«jy Uukm io Washington 

k„ rooked b 5 lir. Kellogg, the Amiran 
»dilrM«iida protest mortlc* 
at Uattcnwn Town Ball last night. He said 
Amenta van giving a royal reception to 
lory ocmoorj representing the cs.iiita.lurt 
poww of Great Britain, who hod coon there 
{“ * a * A ™L ln «***•- They were the glorious 
herein who were going to my. ** We are th- 
English-speaking motherhood." But (her 
to* i«*o a “ blue funk, ' foe they know 
that if b« had carried cm his propaganda in 
AnietVv they could not stand up and far* i» 
Therefore they intrigued, plotted, and Bed. 
bet never eamu out in the open agalnat him 

io Great Britain. Ho concluded by saying 

**•* P***"™*' *»» that be 

had bcce deprived of the opportunity of 
meeting his two brothers, who were good 
ciUrens of America, bat foe the rent be had 
nciUtcr regret, dismay, or driappotnu-uen;. 

A resolution of confidence in Mr, SaiMvoln 
and deploring America's poJicy of banning 
h» entry am a delegate to the Washington 
conference was carried. 

In reply t«> questions, Mr. SAg|.aTVtu a 
said l»e would go to Amurlra stilt IT invited, 
and added : ' I have written to America 
penciling 1 hat If I went I would tint preach 
anarchy, but I would espooe the conspiracy 
of the capitalist ruling clnsn." 1 1 


Clipping: The Times, 21st September 1925 
During the course of one debate, George Lansbury took exception to a remark 
made by Austen Chamberlain, relating to Saklatvala not being a native of 
Great Britain, and called for a withdrawal of the remark. In complaining to the 
Speaker, Lansbury claimed, “Another hon member has insulted one of the 
best-living men in this or any other country...” 

Chamberlain assured the House, “What I thought was a perfectly innocent 


310 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


remark has aroused a good deal of criticism. I beg, through you, Sir, to assure 
the hon member that I meant nothing insulting.” The remark in question— 
which he was never allowed to complete— began, “When the hon member 
knows this country more intimately...” 

In a reply published in the Sunday Worker, Saklatvala said: 

“...throughout these 19 years [the period of his stay in Britain] I have not 
spared myself in studying the conditions, troubles, temperament and 
needs of the working class, for whom alone I am concerned. Against one 
Chamberlain, I have the voice of 15,000 British workers in Battersea, 
and during my visits to the provinces for communist propaganda I have 
reason to know that there are as many thousands elsewhere who know 
that I have a far more intimate knowledge of the conditions and needs of 
the workers of Britain than ever Mr Austen Chamberlain will be able to 
possess.” 

In the course of a parliamentary debate on the Poor Law in Scotland, 
Saklatvala made an amusing comment on the system of voting in the House: 

“I rise to support the amendment. In doing so I fully realise that I am 
not supporting a cause which is going to win in the lobbies. It was only 
on Tuesday night that the followers of the government had been weeded 
out of what little conscience they had, and since then they had not had 
sufficient time to recover. It is just as easy for them to support their 
leaders whether they are right or wrong. I am perfectly sure that the 
reclining figure on the back bench will become perpendicular when the 
Division comes and that he will vote for the government.” 


311 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


ITALIAN FACTION FIGHTS 
IN NEW YORK. 

I™" owk conrawosrDicrr.) 

NEW YORK. Sift. w. 

Tho arrival at nine Italian delegoboi 
to tlw Inter Parliamentary Canfefraro 
in the liner Duilio provoked a rlnoh 
hdweai New York FoMusti Com- 
munists and other Radicals. 

In proto* partly against Fonuiarno 
aod partly against Mr. £aldaU«U'» 
exclusion tho extremists had impanel a 
denicoatration on tho wharf. At the 
request of the Italian Amhaesodor, the 
authorities liad provided adequate police 
protection for the arriving delegatee, who 
were whisked away to hotels by taxi 
eahe from the Lower Pier while the polio* 
were mdeavourinc to prevent a riot 
between the rival crowds outside (be 
entrauue to tbo Upper Pier. 

Two Italians ware tUghtly wounded 
when an unidentified lucmbar ot the Anti- 
Fascist Party fin»| seven shots into the 
Fascist denioneUatora. Th* polk* buer 
diBpflrsed dnnoratrAtMn.i against tho 
Fascist headquarters anil (he H*ra Hotel, 
where (bo Italian Ambassador i* staying 

A second attempt to Btcgc a Communist 
demon* trat loci wae mads this morning, 
when the Ounaftl Hner Caroma arrived 
with the delegates of Great Britain. 
” Red* " marched to the wharf, empty 
the “ International ’ f and carrying bonnwit 
iaambed “ Sakletvala ia the friend of 
Labour. The British delegates are 
organised Labour's envemw*. But, a 
large police foroe wae awaiting the demon- 
strators, who spoedilv dieporood. 

The League of Xations Association 
entertained all the delegations at luncheon 
to day. 


Clipping: The Times, 29th September 1925 
Also in lighter vein, he intervened humorously in an exchange between 
Captain Wedgwood Benn and Joynson- Hicks. Wedgwood Benn asked the 
Home Secretary what general rules governed the attendance of secret police at 
meetings; on what subjects were they asked to report; and whether they were 
employed to register in general opinions expressed, or whether their duties 
were limited to the prevention of crime and of the advocacy of crime? On 
getting an evasive reply, Wedgwood Benn pressed his point. Joynson-Hicks 
then said that the object of police attendance was to inform him of what takes 
place, “...and if there are revolutionary sentiments or revolutionary projects 
discussed at that meeting...” 

Saklatvala rose to ask the innocent question, “Will the Rt. hon gentleman say if 
police duties also include attendance at dinner parties where revolutionary 
talk may be going on, and if that is extended to the private dining rooms of the 
House of Commons, where I hold dinners with my revolutionary friends on 


312 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


occasions?” 

During one debate taking place very late at night, Saklatvala said, “I hope I will 
not be charged with an attempt to keep hon members opposite up— because it 
is my honest desire to keep them down!” 


AMERICAN METHOD WITH 
COMMUNISTS. 


COL WOODCOCK. M.P.. ON HIS 
VISIT. 

Coionol Woodcock. M.P.. who arrived at 
Liverpool on Saturday. after attending live 
conference at Washington of tfce Inter Par- 
liamentary Union. mid h» wan convinced 
•Hat thu action be took in preventing Mr. 
.Saklatvala, I ho < 'omnuunM M.P., from goiznr 
to America would ban far reaching rvwultT 
“ TTie prominence mv action gave in drawing 
attention to tbu activitiea of Comm unlit*, '• 
be went on, “ bus not only given a laid to (hi* 
country and America, but other couxitrwa are 
mow apt to foflow our action in dealing with 
thi* menace. The revolt mvxt be to pat hack 
the growth of their dwtructlTC fort«) for many 
youa to come. The United states are very 
much alive to Uiix menace. Their methods 
are much more forceful than ours. Wc had 
evidenen of thin when wt arrived in New 
York. When we tender] there was a 
demoantratton of about 400 p«>|>|e to nro- 
trat a«al net the esrluMiun of Nr Saklatvala. 
Thl« crowd war mtiiprmaed by police, who wen. 
supported by eoWier* and a equad of bombers. 
Everywhere 1 went I was ocmpUnimted for 
preventing Mr. Hailatval. going to America. 
The promulgation of Oomnuinlst doctrine* M 
being dealt with firmly and promptly. A 
conversation I bad with Mr. Davit, Mtcmtary 
lor Labour in the United State*, convinced 
me that that country m giving a lend to other 
oooii torn In the exclusion and detMirtation of 
CoB u n u n hda. Many alieoa, kitMmbers of the 
Communist party of America, hare been 
deported, and are boirg deported whenever 
tbetr prmepoe in that country comes to Uiu 
notice of the Immigration authorities. 


Clipping: The Times, 26th October 1925 
In spite of personal attacks and disappointments, Saklatvala never lost his 
sense of humour— he saw many of the flaws of imperial society, its pomposity, 
its double standards, its claim to its own freedom, while denying freedom to 
more than half the world, as ludicrous as well as wicked— and laughter, even 
when silent, is a great booster of morale. 


313 




CHAPTER 16 


A Subversive in Parliament 

Parliamentary speech on British rule in India and on 
imperialism in general, 1925. 


On 9th July 1925, under the Chairmanship of James Hope, the House of 
Commons debated the estimates for expenditure on the India Office, which 
gave Saklatvala the opportunity to express in the House his views on the 
government of India by Great Britain and on imperialism in general. His 
speech that night sums up much of his thinking on this subject, which was 
central to all his political thought. I therefore quote it here at length: 

“I am thankful to the noble Lord that towards the close of his speech he 
told the Committee that I am bound to take a different view from both 
Front Benches, who are more or less alike in their policy and their 
outlook on Indian affairs... 

THE COAL SUBSIDY. 

On tli* report «! the Vote lor £10.000,000 In 
•td of in tli* cooltniniikc radartry 

(which wm carried in Commute* tout night). 

Sir. SAKLATVALA (Battersea, N., Cam.) 
urged that the inquiry by the Commission 
should include the atato ot the coal Industry 
in other parts of the British Empire, where 
British routers were employing labour at is. 
a week. 

Clipping: The Times, 8th August 1925 
“What I say here is not in any mood of anger or hatred, but positively 
with a view to speaking the truth, when sometimes truth, though 
unpleasant, is ultimately better than diplomatic statesmanship and 
political thought. I pay homage to the British spirit of hypocritical 
statesmanship. It is a wonderful sight today. We are talking of the 
Indian Empire just in the same strain of common agreement, with that 
very placid attitude of mind and phraseology of speech as if we were 
discussing some matters relating to the renewal of furniture in the 
library or cooking utensils in the kitchen of the House of Commons.” 

At this point, notice was taken that there were less than 40 members present— 
thereby proving Father’s point that little importance was attached to Indian 


314 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


affairs in the minds of the British members of Parliament who were 
responsible for the government of the country. More members were brought 
in to enable the debate to continue. (When members of the public are critical 
of MPs for poor attendances in the House, it is often put forward that many of 
them are busy in Committee Rooms; but it is not surprising if the electorate 
sometimes form the opinion that the bar is more popular than the debating 
chamber.) 

“I am thankful to the hon member for getting me a bigger audience. I 
assure the Committee that my whole object in taking the line I do is to 
place before the Committee, as well as before the country, not only the 
Communist Party point of view, but the general international point of 
view, the overlooking of which in the near future is going to bring 
serious calamity to many European countries, and especially to Great 
Britain. 

“We are debating here as if the Bengal Ordinances were never 
promulgated [Editor’s note: The Bengal Criminal Law amendment 
Ordinance, 1924, instituted special courts and dispensed with habeus 
corpus in an attempt to suppress dissent], as if the shooting of Bombay 
operatives during the cotton strike had never taken place [Editor’s note: 
Five protestors were killed by police on March 7th 1924], as if a great 
strike of thousands of railway workers is not even now going on in the 
Punjab, with men starving and the government, the controller of those 
railways, taking up a hard-faced attitude, as if all these things had not 
happened, as if a great controversy is not raging, not only with the 
people of India but with the people all over the world, whether British 
Imperialism, whatever its past history, is at all permissible to exist now 
for the benefit of the citizens of Great Britain herself. 

“There are great problems pertaining to India and Britain which ought 
to have been discussed on an afternoon like this. I agree that the 
commonness of parties and the commonness of policy between the last 
government and the present government has tabooed all these 
important questions from being uttered in the House. The main 
question with which we are confronted is the entire question of 
Imperialism in its present form. 

“It is rather unfortunate that from the earliest time you have called this 


315 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


agglomeration of different people and different races the British 
Empire. I wish you had from the first designated it as the Indo-British 
Empire, so that what we may say about the Indian subjects in the 
Empire may not be taken as a reflection by our Colonial friends in 
Canada, Australia and elsewhere. 

“The conditions are entirely different. Rules and regulations, formulae, 
political remedies and experiences which apply to that part of the 
British Empire which is composed of Great Britain and her white 
Colonies are not at all applicable to the other portions of the Empire, 
such as India and certain portions of China and Africa... 

“I do not take the view that there are progressive ways of self- 
government, of Dominion Home Rule, of Indianisation of the Army and 
all those things just as there are certain progressive measures for 
cultivating apples in Canada, cattle markets in Australia and bringing 
the fruit and meat to this country from the distant parts of the Empire. I 
take the view of the reality of life, that if genuine self-rule is in the hands 
of the Indians and if there exists a genuine Indianisation of the Indian 
Army, no Indian will be so despicable, as to say that they would hold 
that country and that Army for the benefit of some people other than 
their own... 

“Take the problem as a human problem. India is a large country with a 
population of over 300,000,000. You talk of 10% of the people being 
educated today. That 10% in that large country represents 30,000,000 
people, and you admit that these 30,000,000 people— which means a 
much larger population than many other smaller European countries— 
are educated and as fit as other similarly educated persons in several 
parts of Europe. 


316 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


LIBERAL C1MPAIOX 
BATTERSEA, 


IX 


A lore” fti>1 lirting wrw liolil »t KitUnr* 

“‘JP* •“ ***1*1 ’** * M»- H»M«t 
Xtotioto *n.t Mr. Vine it C- Alba, |/w. H »ntlvo 
Ui»r«.l rmdUata, for X«rtB bo4 Kovtfi 
ButU-nm. ThoaRlt It w*» oULnl lfa*|, the 
K»cr.1.!!tx t*a r .0 omnetirtn with the more* 
rnent to urewtt the [wnt member. It w« 
« Mieot tbBt it lerwc KUBihc* or bh> .uj.pwiw* 
were pTRienf. fVlertlon* ptoved c* the 
re*tn b.rliet«t " .toha Brown* llody,'' end 
n parody, tab, rote, vote foe StkLtUth. ' 
vu idumled hy o Urge pro portion of the 
Attillc«u»i Tbra* ueve aofii* intomipCiofi*, 

MS. » h “ , ° •«* ‘P-akrw hod otoir 
heortn*. TJie CiixataiiN lNr . T . 
tna orpUuded trbrn he mid, " Ifativnoo. 
want* b policy with « fuu*. with b kick, 
*£“• * ■"■** .** hot. la.ifhtrr 

Weetod hb stUUioral. Hot the only rc v nfcu 
tuMir Hr w “ «*» f^hetiBl Pony. Mr. 
f®*** M.P .etoted t.W he W!W, M 

in fra ftpe*ch« iitul «tid oot :ti>provt of tc+ 


Clipping: The Times, 22nd September 1925 
“Then you style yourselves the trustees of the whole of India, and as 
trustees you take jolly good care to see that the other 280,000,000 
remain ignorant, illiterate, uneducated with no freedom to call their 
souls their own... because Great Britain, to suit her own purpose, treats 
those 280,000,000 persons as so many animals or beasts of burden... 

“Is there a single British man or woman today, is there a person 
anywhere in any country in Europe, in any of the backward countries in 
the Balkan states, in any of the small nations which are not yet so fully 
developed as Great Britain, who would tolerate for one day a power so 
despotic and arbitrary as the Crown, under the Imperial system, is 
insisting upon enjoying in India? There would not be a man or woman 
who tomorrow would not rise and fight to the bitter end to claim their 
rights if the monarchy claimed one tenth of the privileges which in the 
name of the Crown are exercised over the people of India. Because you 
keep the other 280,000,000 people back, you are asking the 30 or 40 
million of educated people there also to swallow such an indignity and 
such an impossibility in public life. 

“...Human feeling, the human heart and the human mind are just the 
same in India as here or elsewhere. You call the Indians seditious when 
they protest against these things, but when you rise in revolt in this 
country against the ruling classes, it is called the spirit of democracy. In 
India, it is sedition, conspiracy, subversive propaganda... 

“I put it to my Indian friends that no sensible persons expect them to 


317 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


submit to such an unnatural state of mind and to such hypocritical 
expressions in their speeches. They are fully entitled to strain every 
nerve to carry on what is called seditious propaganda, what is called a 
revolutionary movement, and to fight with all their might and main 
such iniquitous and unjust and brutal privileges as are claimed by the 
Crown, through their Agents, in India. It is perfectly right. You would all 
do it. No one doing it in this country would be condemned for doing it... 

A» * pretMt agairnt the action of the 
WaghrtrxMe m henmon Mr. b-'Llkt 
v&je* Cocneranist znottixc. the J^ebcor croup 
ill tlie Citv Cnn-n-il have lecoirvmeiMted the 
mrrrSna of Uw Latoor Party to abftain Inai 
attending any of tlie ceremonle* oonnn-trxt 

wiili Mr. RaMwIn't visit to f.laxeow next seek. 

TIk* Prune Ntnilrtxc M to reeelxo the modem 
of the <rty. an4 the Lftfcxur gixip muert that 
tt wniild tio a tteirkery lix- them to he txvecnt 
trixfl ftoadom of opeaefe ta dctiod to Lobotir 
organitetjiwit in OlaAgoor 

Clipping: The Times, 25th September 1925 
“...The noble Lord [Earl Winterton], if he will forgive me for saying so, 
stood up in a school-boyish fashion, and referred us to the lessons of 
history for the last 700 years. As I read English history for the last 700 
years, it is a more ignominious record than ours. He says, ‘You have 
always had a foreign monarch, always an invader coming in from 
outside to rule you.’ Since my childhood days, when I was studying 
English history, I have known that England so far never has had an 
English monarch. She has always had a foreign invader. Never has her 
monarchy been a home-grown product. Monarchy is a sort of family 
privilege. A few families supply monarchs to Europe just as a few biscuit 
factories supply biscuits all over Europe... 

“I am simply showing the want of logic in the position he [Winterton] 
took up in reproaching India as a country which was always governed by 
a foreign monarch, and thereby trying to establish the right of himself 
and his family and future generations, to go on governing India... 

“It was entirely a futile argument, and if you go back 200 years, your 
education, your sanitation, and internal arrangements, with Bishops 
burning people, and the persecution and religious terrorism, you have 
nothing much to be proud of. You had your struggles and we have ours, 
and shall still have them. I put it to the noble Lord as well as to his own 
Party, not to take the narrow-minded, schoolboyish view of life when 
talking of the biggest affairs of mankind. 

318 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“...We want to put it to you that you are talking in contradictory terms. 
Sometimes one thing is right and at another moment it is wrong. If you 
decide to go to India and revolutionise the lives of the Eastern people, 
you do not talk of castes, you do not talk of Hindu and Mohammedan 
ideas, or of depressed classes. When it is your intention to start cotton 
factories, jute factories, railways and telegraphs, you do not say, ‘We 
cannot do it, because India is cut up by caste or because of Hindu and 
Mohammedan hatreds, or because there are depressed classes.’ 

“With just the same ease, comfort and confidence with which you start 
these machines for grinding human life and freedom here, you start 
factories, mines, railroads and dockyards there. Nothing stands in your 
way then. But when we tell you, ‘See here, you pay so much a head here 
—(not that you pay willingly for it— it was extorted by the workers 
fighting inch by inch against you)— and we say to you that if you apply 
these modern instruments of production... you must also apply other 
conditions... 

“...Then you begin to talk of castes, of Hindus and Mohammedans and 
the depressed classes... I put it to you that it is a very cowardly game. I 
do not impeach your intention, but I do impeach your habit of mind. It 
is a very crooked habit of mind. If you were setting the Indian worker 
the same equal race with his employer that you have in this country, 
your argument might be at least logical, even if it were not 
humanitarian. 

“But here you have a fully developed master class, who with their 
struggle for a hundred years with the working classes in Europe are 
experienced, well-informed and well equipped with all the methods of 
enslaving and grinding down human life. That ready-made master... 
goes to India, to Bengal, Bombay or somewhere else, and pitches his 
camp there, and applies his up-to-date knowledge and his full blast 
methods of controlling labour and grinding down human beings. His 
informed mind, well equipped with experience, devises schemes. 

“The government from time to time say, ‘We are the trustees of the 
people, protectors of the undefended.’ Where are you when it comes to 
defending the people against the robbers of your own country? ...Two 
years ago, when our Indian friends wanted to hold a Trade Union 


319 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Congress in the mining area, to draw the attention of the whole country 
to the most hideous and the most brutal conditions prevailing in the 
Bengal mines, the Merchants’ Association, the European Mine Owners’ 
Association, asked the government to stop the Congress. 

“They demanded the presence of a Ghurka Regiment. Machine guns and 
soldiers, with bayonets ready, were in the mining areas. That is the part 
they played in granting the rights of the workers. When these tactics did 
not succeed, and when the Indians who devoted themselves to work on 
behalf of the miners, showed their determination and were backed up by 
50 or 60 thousand miners laying down their tools and attending the 
Congress, the Chairman of the Miners’ Association wrote a letter of 
apology and presented himself and said he would now agree. 

“I appeal to my British friends that if they are so proud of being 
Britishers, let them remain Britishers when they go abroad. If they want 
to take credit for everything that somebody else does and refuse to take 
discredit for everything they neglect to do, the least I can say is that they 
are a very funny people... 

“The noble Lord, the under-secretary [Earl Winterton] has entirely 
evaded the issue of the Bengal Ordinances, seditious movements, 
suppression of the Communists, and so forth. I plead guilty that I am at 
the bottom of many of the Communist manifestoes and Communist 
propaganda in India. I am not ashamed of it, and I say that my work is a 
hundred times more humanitarian than the work of all your 
missionaries and merchants taken together. Why are you taking this 
bigoted, narrow-minded view of life?... 


BATTERS!! A AXD MR. SAK/.ATTALA 


Battersea Borough Council last night eoe- 
sidarad petitions, sagn*l lijr *.171 inhabitants, 
protesting against the “ disloyal and rero 
lutioru.IT utteraaoee " of Mr. Sofclatvahb 1IJ>. 
tea North Bsttinxs, sating Uial the people 
of Battenaa should bo tailed together ti> 
daunts* the matter, ted requesting that ha be 
refused the use of the Town Ball or any public 
buildings for meetings at which to (Inseminate 
such utterances. Mr. WrrFi*u» proposed that 
the pvtilsanm be allowed llse Kiae m.... 

Baths t er a town's meeting at an early data. 
Mr. PovEtt, supporting, said they of Use 
Labour Party desired that the fotitioom 
should have as fair a hearing ea Mr. Hid. Utvafa. 
It was ultimately agreed that the f-titiooers 
should have a meeting at the Town Hall, if 
pcasihW, or in the Kins Elms or Latchnutrn 


Clipping: The Times, 1st October 1925 


320 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“It is alleged that whatever is said in this House travels abroad and 
creates misunderstanding. Why be afraid of the truth being known 
abroad? I, as a Communist, as a true believer in Internationalism, do 
not speak with the intention of offending, but with the intention of 
giving a shock to your mentality, so that you can think in terms of 
humanity instead of in terms of banking accounts and profits. 

“You say you are the trustees of the people. You have had 150 years and 
today you say you cannot give the franchise to the agricultural 
population; you tell hon and Rt. hon members of this House that they 
do not know the conditions in India, that the education of the villager in 
India is impossible and that they are not to think that the population of 
India is like the population of Great Britain. 

“It may be that you are honest incompetents, and that you say this in 
your impotence and incapacity, but why not learn from others? Our 
Russian Bolshevist friends have, in five years time, been able to give the 
political franchise to the agriculturists of Russia, who are a class parallel 
with the agriculturist population of India. They are also people of 
diverse religions, including Mohammedans, Jews, Greeks, Church 
people and others. 

“The Bolshevists have been able to give them education in 5 years, yet in 
the Tsar’s days, these people were treated with the same callousness and 
brutal cruelty as that with which you have been treating the Indian 
peasant for 150 years. In 5 years after the Communist international 
revolution in Russia, 65% of the agricultural population have received 
education, and you have, today, the testimony of half-a-dozen British 
men and women that, in spite of blood-curdling articles in your 
newspapers, the Russians have done their job well. Why play a dog-in- 
the-manger part? 

“I appeal to this Committee to allow a commission of Indians to go to 
Russia to study and to find what the British have failed to discover— the 
way of granting to the people political franchise and education, scientific 
laboratories, institutions, health-homes, compensation and allowances 
for industrial workers. If Russia, a country of agriculturists, could find 
the way out, how is it that you, with your world-proclaimed cleverness 
as administrators, have failed to find it?... 


321 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“The noble Lord delivered himself on a previous occasion of his views 
on Russian propaganda. Today we have to review his actions during the 
last 12 months with regard to the Cawnpore trials. Why does he consider 
himself entitled to suppress Communist propaganda? He says other 
propaganda may be allowed, but not seditious propaganda or subversive 
propaganda. That is another contradiction. Every propaganda must be 
subversive. If it is not subversive then there is no need for propaganda... 
“Every propaganda, if it is effective and sincere, means something new, 
and if those who carry it on have the courage of their convictions and 
want to put what they feel to be right in the place of the old system, the 
propaganda must be subversive. You are talking to the 20th century in 
the terms of 18th century lawyers when you refer to subversive 
propaganda, sedition and revolution. They are the birthrights of modern 
nations, and the birthrights of the Indians just as much as they were 
your birthrights. 

“I, for one, will not yield to terrorism. I am going to carry on subversive 
propaganda, revolutionary propaganda, Communist propaganda, 
international propaganda, with the assistance of the Russians, and the 
Chinese and the Germans and the British. I am not alone in that. 

“The government has kept quiet about the great Indian Railway strike... 
the government of India forget that they are the largest employers of 
labour in the world ... and I put it quite definitely that, taking a 
comparison with any other eastern country, you pay the most miserable 
wages, and give the most miserable conditions, and deprive the 
population which works for you and for the prosperity of your great 
Empire of their rights, and inflict on them political indignity and 
humiliation worse than can be found in any part of Asia. 

“...But I think even the noble Lord knows that the British government 
are treating with the most inhuman, callous oppression the railway 
workers, and imposing on them a negation of their rights... 

“I touch on one more point, and that is the death rate... I tell you you are 
there to destroy human life. It may not be your intention, but that is 
part of the game. I ask hon members to analyse the infantile death rate a 
little more closely. The rate... for the City of Bombay was 411 per 
thousand. That is the normal rate, though it has been 834 in one year. 


322 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Even this, however, is a mistaken figure. 

“The city of Bombay is a rich city. My own community is one of the 
richest communities there, and they do not present a death rate of 411 
per thousand. Their infantile mortality is very near your own. There is 
also the European population and the rich Hindu and Mohammedan 
populations. But if you take the figures of infantile mortality in the 
municipal records before the final abstract is made, and if you study the 
rate in those wards where factory women live, the death rate there is not 
411 per 1000, but it is from 600 to 700 per 1000. 

“You cannot attribute that to climate or to insanitary conditions, 
because all over India in the agricultural areas without sanitation or 
education and with a hot climate, the infantile death rate is about 190. It 
is in the factory wards of Bombay, Calcutta, Allahabad, Delhi, and so on, 
wherever there are modern factories, that the infantile death rate comes 
to between 600 and 700 infants per 1000, and we think that, if nothing 
else, that one inhuman item, that cannibalistic feature of your 
imperialism, should be quite enough to make you come away. 

“You went there, you say, to save the people, but you have acted in a 
contrary direction, and in the name of the people here, in the name of 
the people there, in the name of the masses, in the name of world 
civilisation, in the name of the necessity for world disarmament, I 
appeal to you to Bolshevise your own minds and hearts, and to 
determine, once and for all, that that imperialism, with all its good 
talking points, has got behind it a trail of inhuman murder, brutality, 
negation of rights and degradation of human life, and must be dissolved. 
“British imperialism must go if humanity is to progress. I do not say that 
in a spirit of anger again. I say it for your own sakes ... do not despise 
Communist internationalism, study it from the point of view of the 
Indians and you will find it of greater value.” 

Four days after this speech, Saklatvala addressed the Speaker with a personal 
explanation: 

“With your permission, Mr Speaker, I ask the indulgence of the House 
while I make a brief personal explanation in regard to a sentence in my 
speech last Thursday night... 

“When I said in the course of my speech that I held myself responsible 


323 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


for, and that I am at the bottom of many of the Communist manifestoes, 
resolutions and Communist propaganda in India, I beg to explain that I 
unequivocally, unreservedly and without reservation associate myself 
with, and endorse such manifestoes, resolutions and propagandist 
literature as are openly and officially propagated by the Communist 
Party of Great Britain. 

“This does not refer to documents of doubtful origin advocating crime, 
or whatever is alleged, which has no proven authenticity... I would not, 
Mr Speaker, endorse here in this House a propaganda which advocates 
individual crime through religious or racial animosities, or for personal 
revenge.” 

When Arthur Field wrote to my brother after Father’s death, he asked the 
rhetorical question, “Why did he want to get into the gas-works?” Apart from 
the fact that anyone wanting to enter the world of politics aspires to 
membership of the House, I think he realised that the House offered him the 
opportunity of speaking under the protection of privilege; he was able, in the 
House of Commons, to express his thoughts and opinions much more freely 
than he would have been allowed to outside. 

I think that Father regarded the role of the propagandist very much as early 
Christians regarded the role of the apostles, whose mission was to spread the 
word. Such preaching, admonishing people to change their existing ways, can 
never be popular with those in power who are thriving on the status quo. The 
martyrs have all suffered for it and Christ died for it. But every society and 
every generation produces its own preachers, teachers and propagandists and, 
as drops of water on stone, they have changed the shape of history. 


324 



CHAPTER 17 


The General Strike and a Term of 


Imprisonment 

Arrest and imprisonment for sedition during the General 
Strike of 1926. The Emergency Powers Act and its many 

extensions. 


The General Strike of 1926 cast its shadow before it— a dark and ominous 
shadow. Governments had mismanaged the economy, and exports fell as the 
value of the British pound rose abroad. Managers and owners of the mines 
mismanaged the mines. Coal was also being produced in the British Empire by 
colliers on starvation wages, thus— in the course of making huge profits for the 
greedy mine-owners— bringing down the international price of coal. Cheap 
coal was beginning to be exported from Poland and the Ruhr. For all these 
reasons, and certainly through no fault at all of the miners, there was less 
demand for British coal. The industry was facing a mounting crisis. 

Yet the only remedy for the slump that anyone liked to contemplate was that 
the miners, the only efficient part of the equation, should be forced to accept 
lower wages and longer hours; there seemed no other way to maintain the 
high profits of the bunglers at the top. Even the most hard-hearted members 
of the ruling and employing class must have realised the gross unfairness of 
such a course and were fearful of the consequences— there is nothing so 
effective in stirring up panic and fear as a guilty conscience. 

So the government started to prepare themselves for the suppression of any 
activity that was likely to arise as a protest from the mining community or the 
Trade Union community in general. The number of unemployed was still 
alarmingly high. The government knew perfectly well that what was to be 
suggested as a remedy was almost certain to meet with strong, if not violent, 
opposition from the victims, namely, the workers, whose wages and jobs were 
in jeopardy. Both sides prepared for battle. The United Kingdom was far from 
united— it was a nation divided. 


325 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


As early as August 1924, Army orders announced the formation of a 
Supplementary Reserve for the regular Army. Whatever the innocent reasons 
officially given for the raising of this Reserve, there was active recruitment 
among trade union members, who were understandably anxious about the 
intended use of such a body. 

In January 1925 Arthur Henderson, General Secretary, reported to the 
National Executive of the Labour Party on the subject; he had, he said, 
enquired of Mr Stephen Walsh, who had replied in the following terms: 

“The Supplementary Reserve as its name indicates is a formation 
supplementary to the existing Army Reserve and is in no sense a special 
reserve. It has been rendered necessary because of the vastly changed 
conditions of modern Army requirements... These changed conditions 
have to be met... It can only be effected by enabling the Army authorities 
to rely upon a reserve of men of the skilled artificer and technical class... 
“Two classes will be enlisted, the first will be organised into technical 
units and trained as such, the second [and it was this category that set 
the alarm bells ringing for trade unionists] will require no training, their 
military duties, when called upon, being similar to the work they 
perform in peace... 


326 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


| HOME SECRET AMY AND 
A GENERAL STRIKE. 


PARLIAMENT AND EXTRA 
POWERS. 

■^r Sfassr sa&yjate 

SSUflKS!?* ctal “ 

TU Caunu un (U W . «^dja htat 

°* .**• Qor«»ia«i$ there wvp. ear or two things 
7. * C**»WV«tO«, * little UOTANI 

tt. ss he hellered, the Ovvrewmrat hlT * 

*“■<*» »*» ft «u .bet*!, 

P **°* J " y**" tn Dwq, but fw unOwf 

gurjKwe. KTcrrhodr bod omnblrad to reppcet 
peeeeat ftsirervatlw Gwremanant boeawse 
Umy e^w tlm bad <x Communm being 
*!“ ^ •?«“*** s»d ■« alt-rapt being 
Buds to Ruwdaalse Ontt Britain Thor 
woatad ti>- Qo«aaa«t to scotch nay su3I 

.UaapC Wbrt had the 

’ Ha ILotd Doby) 
h ** < <H»a and *u dung »oc»eUidig . 
oat at lb* promt moment they Ai not crotu 

fcHL* h,,l w W “- (l****** * « tbe Um 

flecrmlMry had not the power* to deal with 
IflouauninL, thta tbny Mid, *• Mate Ulom 
V&"*cn." (C!Mt«.) 

*■, a -»°T*»o* Hsc*a, i, reply, 

aaid that the tUUmu who dreltned to bo 
*am«d by the vfew, at hi* cacdU friends 
woeild. ere lea*. - cense a cropper " la Ms 
edmmiotratioi. of the altair* at the State. 
The Rent Seeretmy kn.nr perfectly w.D that 
llUlu?® 14 n<rt “* PT Haislata In sdvanre II » 
unbbe opinion m this country, wtdeh had in*, 
i f no< * 1 Its freedom of speech. 0 

Jt* 7 to effort » n?*l ch«ui(p« In 

thass fisudam ratal doctrines, they had sot 
«*** that the ah.*. onuntry 
"** b “|®' 3 theca. Ho waatod to eoavinoe 
1“* ««««»»? that these «« epute do 

flallely a*. attea.pt be»g made to destroy 
«• canstrtatlensl OtrrmuaeaU The Labour 
Part y h*d. for a Ion* lime, boca wallowing In 
a kind ,4 sea trough. uncertain whether It 
waa to set witbir. lb*- Cceurtltotlna *r outahla 
it. nr whethrr to guvum or attempt to govern 

by councils of action. In spile .f the too- 
ICMMlce which liad just lak«. plaea, ha waa 
aot guile wire where Mr. MacDonald and the 
Lat-Hw Party really stood. The Comoiuutst 
Party might he small. but It was powaful, 
acd deonltely In alBaoct With Russia. 
Am-BsmuH l*nor*a*wi»A. 

antl-ilritali because they reecguiwd that 
RnUlm w«* rr*tofd~.t «a Uia bulwark 
of naojly by nil countries Jn tho world. Hs 
said that ata Slu horn IhareeU. Potlltt, 
OaUacbse, and MthUtioW received tW 
Otdts*. directly or indirectly, front Zmoeiefl, 
sail after tbs Scarborough Confer™.* the 
(.oeasiunis* leaden sat down aad wrote s 
long dfudfllos of tboir newsy to their 
payn.sgUs In Moscow , At the recent roc. - 
fnrrnoc. while Mr. MaeDoisald rast the Coic- 
ii.onRts la lanifsage whsrh t.« Okt tVilbaml 
to mid never hare thanght of uring. no fewer 
thao l,10U,04d Voter wetw oast In favour of 
supportlcy a C<wnmMnlst ns-spavts. It did 
As jf the 1 ^bo or Party had qilte 
MM JUkV of the t*t*t of ComivihBa 
It did not Ionic m H tbm Lobour Pttr vrere 
H^ICo cWorty determined to bwoniue the cot* 

jl'.U>Ce>l-Al raATt > 


His pow*«s id rcfcvd to oHctta were Ainpte. 

DUt Che ioa! difficulty In ilollng viltli llam 

«xUtmaU «u timl th-j ate* HM jff— 
and Hit lit led to thv pcotnetuun of the 
■seet so long on Ih-y did ncit tnusagrtws tiie 
▼cry narrow lltw Lsiswe what rw and shut 
was uat eoastUuUonal. Rn prwjccdtd to 
foiat* in detail tin* nawlUwun be had bad 
with the AtWmuy-UeaesaJ and Public Pros 
cwtor hi resard u» uttsraaoee of Ri. b»uij»Wnle 
and Mr. Tcan Mann. “ The dedaioo w*s," 
bn mid. that me tbniight thaes stooetxw 
woahl probably bs hcM by a Jmry tTb T 
eeditloua, but, as twch spmehes wan. Jn- 
cmadh* bum day to day in thoir rtolnooe. 

•• tbsre Was to be a s sciss of mestings 
In the near future. It would not be at all a 
bad thing to mnit a weak or two and see if 
tbe next epoeehss by thaw, men did not make 
the c ear ranrhudve. TVuwi lie moment that 

a newspaper pruhllshod dacalls of mj *on- 
fmicu neither Tom Mean nor tlaklalrth 
bee opened hh mouth In public.*' 

Hw was oonntKsd that public opinion 
would giro the iiuvcmment nay power* 
nsormary to oral with tbla m-oaeo. It was 
a matter of Ufo or death for the greatneu* of 
rhoand. A Gerrmnsrat which pmasutel 
end failed arould make a martyr of a veer 
at wary ■ tract owner thro^hoot Ungland. 
He had asked tbe Allomer-Beweral and the 
Pubvie Pneecutur to asathe U the j>ow«r» 
at hh> disposal were snOcsenU and area to 
consider what things out* wcmmrr, so tha«- 
they might bs introducud Into Parhnment 
as soon as it mat. 

Rnrt r to Mr. MacXkMtaut. 

Replying to Uia letter of Mr. MacDonald 
pnblhbad m Tk« iswi yastsrday. tflp WnajaM 

•aid : — ** In the tut pla ce , let ms say at ones 
that the orsnm’miVy hi wUlM to protect 
JSl™ Uts effect* of a general strike.” 

(Chuff. 1 Waa tt* ttinBiaiif [>r»t*rvJ to 
W* Uia vmy nblnue <4 Uw » oq t»lry, ^ 
tkM AVAnt At a Ktiun* iUikAa to tW TWieo 
v**«e Cop y a m. m by Mr. Mur- 

Donald f “ Quite defltdtnly, I am not,” the 
House fleer* tary added. ” 1 am prepaerd bo 
tnt* Bay toll responsibility ; 1 am i-esjar*.' to 
say that the fionrsmat plans are there i 
Uiry are ready to be cat Into operation. I 
have not nailed fas hntfm.mlHl.ia r nl'uirjMT 
bocame f knew wall, if ( call when a strike 
taka Hikes and the State la la danger, them 
•ill not. b* Wlf-«-n.illloei — Lbec wUl be two 
or thrse mUlicna 

“ It li trs* 1 hs*s given a quaTiftcd blaming 
to this onaanaUan. an orgsnlxaUcat of cwn 
of proved hdellty to the Stab*. 1 bars told 
them, as I have told every cdhs III iiiwl i situs 
that has come to ms. Uiat at tbs moment 
of trouble N will not bs allowed to take any 
part with military status whatever, but, 
II any organlrathm 1s prepared to band me 
ova* etmSei bate of men. in Liverpool, 
in London, or say other place, same to 
a* irwrlal constables, some ns iKun, 
as nlTM ol transport, j shoold V a fnoL 
behalf of the Gosetnmeot, If 1 declined to 
accept them. I believe that If this Communis!, 
organisation dare to sat tbemselvre up . 
the people of tbs country. If they dare tcOpra- 
■note re volution. Ussy will be met with such 
an opposition oo tho part of the burned neon 
and sowa ef the oocrun unity, and ISA 
diderminetlna, that tt will not be Great 
HrtUi*. it will not be the ConsVitwtiaa which 
will be ImreciTW — It will be the ONomunist 
Party which will bo gmsahod to atom.” 
(Chase*. I 


Clipping: The Times, 6th October 1925 
“The Army Order terms of last August setting up the Supplementary 
Reserve binds every officer in the Army from the highest to the lowest 
and are an explicit guarantee that the liability to be called out in aid of 
the civil power will not be enforced... As to the action taken by the Army 


327 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


authorities in conjunction with the Railway Companies for recruiting of 
a Railway section of the Supplementary Reserve, I know nothing. That is 
an administrative act for which, of course, I can accept no 
responsibility.” 

[Editor’s note: Stephen Walsh (Labour) had been vice-president of the 
National Union of Mineworkers from 1922 - 1924; he was then appointed 
Secretary of State for War by Ramsey MacDonald during the Labour 
government of 1924.] 

But, not unnaturally, the trade unionists, the left-wing of the Labour Party and 
the Communist Party took the view that, in creating this Supplementary 
Reserve of skilled artificers and technical workers, the government was 
building up a reserve force of workers who would have to obey the orders 
issued by the Army, even if they were called upon to break any strike by their 
fellow- workers; a pool of men who were forgoing their right to withdraw their 
labour, since as Army reservists, to disobey their Army officers would be 
deemed to be mutiny. 

Saklatvala asked over and over again in the House for details of recruitment to 
this Supplementary Reserve. On 18th February 1925, he put down a question 
to the Secretary of State for War asking for the number of men so far recruited 
and the trades from which they had been drawn. In reply, Sir Worthington 
Evans gave some figures and added, “The only groups of employers which 
have been approached by the War Office with a view to recruiting for this 
branch of the Reserve are the four railway companies of Great Britain, and 
certain engineering firms and transport companies.” 

Of course, were there to be a coal strike, it was almost certain that the miners 
would be supported by railway and other transport workers, who in all 
probability would refuse to move any coal; thus in recruiting just these men 
into the Army, the government could be certain that the movement of coal and 
other goods, in the event of major strike action, could be undertaken by those 
workers who had been recruited into the Army reserve. 

The following month, Saklatvala was on his feet in the House again, this time 
asking for a breakdown of the numbers of recruits in the various trades. He 
was told such statistics were not available. He then asked the Secretary of 
State for War whether he had approached trade union groups, as he did 
groups of employers, to enlist their sympathy and assistance in encouraging 


328 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


recruiting in the Army Supplementary Reserve; and if so, how many and 
which trade unions were they? 

The Under Secretary admitted in reply that he was in negotiation with the 
National Union of Railwaymen and also the Transport and General Workers’ 
Union. The next nagging question that Saklatvala raised was about assurances 
given that the Supplementary Reserve would not be called upon to intervene 
in any civil dispute; and he was told the only assurance to this effect was that 
contained in the Army Orders. 

A few days later he asked for the numbers of engine-drivers, firemen, signal- 
men, motor drivers, electricians and clerks who had so far been recruited to 
the Army Supplementary Reserve. No details were forthcoming and he raised 
the question yet again a few days later, saying that, in view of the 
unsatisfactory replies to his questions he begged to give notice that he would 
raise the question on the adjournment; this he did on the 30th March 1925. 


329 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


THE BRITISH ISRAEL 
CONGRESS. 

LORD O IS BOROUGH ON ALIENS. 

Ufftd CoognMi ntnnhed by 
the BhttaH Ure-l Wortd rwlanEm. wm 
opcoad tmlotduy *fU rnooa U the control 
Han. WaokmioaUr. ted «r|tl be ca*itiau«d 
l!ifuaghr«il. Ih« wwk until SetuMtT cvctias. 
7*“ nwottan waa (Weeded over by 

Lard IHibormtth. A cuauog* w aa received 
Iran TMnr-en lH.ce, CuuoteM oC AttdeoA, 
ebbd pdiron. cxpra*cin« bee regret at un. ( 
usable bo be pm* ant, and offer! bee ei<d 
wiebes for U>e mice*** ot the Federation. 

Lons QcshODOCOB. ia tut opening tddrm, 
anttuwioni that Prior ret Louiee, Durboai of 
A 1-578, had omen l ead to attend on Wedocaday 
tTtnbif, He wetooued tmeng Uxor present 
the Doetgrr lady Radnor, not of the rounder* 
uftlar inurement, ot which tar lai/t Lord Bodnar 
was the Amt president- Thrlr uior.wn.ni, 
he prnreeded. «ee not* tl windUng oc a weaken 
Ina cauo*. So ottxr Moreaeat u> the country 
had gene ahead to rapidly. The line* the 
objttlt at Ikeir immanent boconu known 
oad nndoestood. the more it coined hold in 
the wcotd. Alluding in p ev oua t world c*n- 
dlUoa*. he oak] them were ttgoa ot t*. 
at band. They read id the newspaper* 
of Kosoow t unking tniohle jo Kgypt, India, 
and Chinn, and try Is* to Bake trouble la 
their Colonies end at borne. No ona knew when 
the trouble ceijt.L came to a brad, but be did 
writ think it would ewer ha wary as seen* Ho 
bad enuwwnoea forth nod cc arid rcco ia the 
working eloeaes of this counter- There was. 
however, a danger ernt. Tbrra ware. cerfoM. 
mnilooa ot aOcat fo this country wU 
ware not too proud to taka off they could la 
dole* and charity ooA then torn gad hit* the 
hood that led thorn . That >u a oaoker m Uifa 
country oad the Gowerametrl ought to dad 
with it. Bo did net heat tote to Incfode ia 
that rateyccTT one of thttr mamba* of Parlia- 
ment. Mr. Kiludieln ((Vrn.) They haul 
glvoa him hoapltollty, nTkiwed him to becrat 
a member ot Pnrtlaaanl, and that he ahrwld 
be prroilttod to turn rewind and Lite (bear who 
warn helping bun through Ida woe a ~-«-~lei Vo 
the system under which It su allowed. 
(Cheat*.) Hither he nog tit to be deple te d or — 
II that was IDegal abut up la ootat room 
where he would he cafe, la ha opinion, that 
would be a lethal chamber. (Laughter »no 
ebeore. 


Clipping: The Times, 6th October 1925 

In his speech he reiterated the history of the ASR and recounted what extreme 
importance was ascribed to it both by the present and the previous Secretary 
of State for War, who were both of the opinion that without sufficient numbers 
of skilled men being raised in the Supplementary Reserve, the Army would not 
be efficient. In view of the vital importance of the numbers being recruited, 
Saklatvala said, he found it astounding that the Secretary of State told him 
that the figures for the recruitment for each vital trade were not available 
either at the War Office or in the House. When the efficiency of the British 
Army depended on satisfactory recruitment, it was astonishing that these all- 
important statistics were not available. 

“I put these questions one after another, making allowances for the 
democratic spirit of this House, and I put the same question in a 


330 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


roundabout manner in five different forms, and I am still without an 
answer.” 

He went on to quote the Secretary of State on the subject of coercing the 
members of the ASR into activity against their fellow workers in any civil 
dispute as saying: 

‘“No doubt the Communists do claim that in no circumstances should 
the Army or the reserve be used in support of the Civil Power, but 
hitherto trade union leaders have never argued that the state is not 
entitled, if the police force proves insufficient, to claim the assistance of 
the armed forces of the Crown.”’ 

Saklatvala said that the Communist Party went further: 

“The Communist Party is right in its attitude that international war of 
the working classes of any other country is as criminal and fratricidal as 
Civil War at home... There must be a common understanding, and that 
can only be arrived at by facing facts, and the facts today are— I, for one, 
and my Party, as such are not ashamed in stating it— that we consider it 
our sacred and religious duty to tell all the British workers to keep away 
from the Army as well as from the Army Supplementary Reserve.” This 
forthright attitude to the Army was to land him in serious trouble the 
following year. 

In September 1925 the Sunday Worker wrote: 

“The Sunday Worker is able to state positively and definitely that the 
ASR is being used as a means of placing at the disposal of the big 
railway companies a corps of enrolled and oath-bound black-legs, liable 
to penalties of martial law for refusing to scab for their fellow workers. 
Couple this with revelations as to the recruiting into the ASR of 
thousands of local government employees and the reality of capitalist 
dictatorship is made clear... Are not all these preparations being made 
to ensure victory for the employing class in their forthcoming offensive 
against the workers’ standard of living?” 

It was on the 30th June 1925 that the coal mine owners announced that they 
would terminate all existing wage agreements at the end of July, and 
demanded an immediate end to any minimum wage and an immediate 
reduction in miners’ pay. Not surprisingly, A.J. Cook, the militant secretary of 
the Mine Workers’ Federation, refused to accept the changes demanded. The 


33i 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


General Council of the Trades Union Congress gave its support to the miners. 
Prime minister Stanley Baldwin, on the other hand, said that all workers must 
take a reduction in wages to put industry on its feet. The TUC was as good as 
its word and, in response to these unreasonable demands by the government 
and the mine owners, put an embargo on the movement of coal by rail, road 
and sea. This prompt and strong action resulted in Baldwin offering a subsidy 
to the mining industry to maintain wages at their existing level until 1st May 
1926. 

A Royal Commission under Sir Herbert Samuel was set up to examine the 
state of the coal industry and to seek solutions for its ills. Meanwhile the 
government divided the country into ten regions, each with a Civil 
Commissioner and a team of civil servants to deal with any industrial unrest 
that might arise. The Royal Commission made its report on 26th March 1926 
and it pleased neither side in the dispute. It condemned the mine-owners and 
it also condemned the government subsidy; and it decided that the miners 
must accept reduced wages. Both owners and miners rejected the report. 

All these events united the working class in Britain as perhaps it has never 
been united since. The people had had enough and were determined to stand 
up for their rights. 


332 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 



Clipping: Daily Mirror, 17th October 1925 
In an attempt to diminish the strength of the rising tide of the workers’ anger, 
in October 1925, twelve leading communists were arrested and tried; five of 
them were given a sentence of twelve months and seven of them were given six 
months in jail. 167 miners were arrested and charged with ‘riotous assembly’; 
fifty received sentences ranging from fourteen days to twelve months. But all 
this intimidation merely served to strengthen the resolve of the workers. 
Saklatvala was among 70 MPs who wrote to the press demanding the 
immediate release of the prisoners. 

The Sunday Worker of 27th December 1925 wrote: 

“Local Labour Parties, ILPs and other bodies are holding protest 
meetings and demonstrations from one end of the country to the other 
and ‘Release the Twelve!’ has become the slogan of the whole Labour 
Movement.” 

“At a Labour Party meeting in West Fulham, Saklatvala addressed the 


333 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


crowded hall, saying he was not there to force them into the Communist 
Party, but the present political and economic situation would make 
communists of them all within the next twelve months. It was the 
government, he said, who were waging the class war by allowing any 
form of terrorism and force so long as it was directed against the 
working class.” 

Herbert Smith, president of the Mine Workers’ Federation, wrote to the 
Sunday Worker in the same issue: 

“...I am sure the forthcoming year is going to be a big test for the whole 
movement. We are now faced with a united capitalist class. The means 
for conducting our struggle are being endangered every day. The 
communist trial showed that very clearly. These lads who are now in 
prison are where they are because the right of free speech, together with 
other elementary civil liberties are being taken away. We must resist 
such attacks... and get the twelve communists out of prison. Yes— we’ll 
see things happen next year.” 

A body called the International Class War Prisoners’ Aid collected over 
300,000 signatures on a petition demanding the release of the communists 
and the miners. Saklatvala presented it to the Speaker in the House of 
Commons on the 24th February 1926. The Sunday Worker wrote of the 
occasion: “Comrade Saklatvala really performed a feat of physical endurance 
as he carried the entire petition— in his arms, on his back and suspended from 
his shoulders.” 

Alas, far from gaining the release of the prisoners, many, many more were to 
be imprisoned before that fateful year was out. Joynson-Hicks (Home 
Secretary) admitted to 1760 arrests but it was generally believed that the 
number was more like 2,500. 

Nor was it only the communists who took up a courageous stand against the 
bullying tactics being used to crush the workers’ defence of their livelihoods. 
George Lansbury said: 

“We call upon all soldiers, sailors and airmen to refuse under any 
circumstances to shoot down the workers of Britain, and we call upon 
working men to refuse to join the capitalist Army. We further call upon 
the police to refuse to use their batons on strikers or locked-out workers 
during industrial disputes.” 


334 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


By the end of April 1926, it was clear that no agreement was going to be 
reached, and that a strike of the miners, and almost certainly a General Strike, 
were inevitable. 

[Editor’s note: In February 1926 the Battersea branch of Labour Party was 
disaffiliated by the national Labour Party.] 

May Day that year was of special significance, for it was also the day when the 
government subsidy came to an end. A multitude of workers assembled on the 
Embankment on May 1st and the vast procession marched to Hyde Park where 
nine public meetings were being held. On May 3rd, The Manchester Guardian 
reported under the headlines: ‘Labour’s May Day Celebrations— Procession of 
Unusually Large Scale’: 

“Saklatvala seemed to be the hero of the day. He was followed to his 
platform by a swirling wake of enthusiasts, and his meeting was much 
the biggest. He is, one imagines, the most powerful mob orator of his 
day. This sallow Indian, with a face worn by fanatical passion, 
dominated the whole scene as, with outstretched, claw-like hands, he 
harangued for a good half hour. With a sort of sombre joy, he acclaimed 
the General Strike as the definite rising of Labour against their 
oppressors, to a chorus of ‘Good old Saklatvala!”’ 

It is interesting to note that the Manchester Guardian reporter gave no 
indication that the speech might be considered as seditious, or that it might be 
interpreted as an incitement to violence. He reported that there was no 
mischief in the crowd— which, while being enthusiastic, seems to have been 
orderly, as was the case with Saklatvala’s meetings in general. He appears 
always to have had complete control of his audiences and there is no evidence 
of their being rowdy scenes at any of his meetings. 


335 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


MAY BAY. 


LABOUR DEMONSTRATION 
IN LONDON. 

A U*k« number of ovynixsllru v swocUtia! 
with tha Ubo« Party In Lnuim la«A part 
10 tha May Day dtmcieiitrstiocfl on Saturday. 
As la Ioaxmt ywir». (be main rallying point 
win the Thames Embankment near the 
Temple (MetSoo, and hot the ptoramon was 
marshalled foe (he march (o HnS. put 
Aiwm* (lie stronepat eoatlngecta iron (hem 
from the ooopernUv* sorietWa, the trade union*, 
and Ui* liKletnodciil Labour Party. 1 >>« 
(.'■oe.muu.ct Party *u aW> reprwvnted. 
■rronil of its mambatv appearing la red 
ahirt*. 

W'tira the procession u-ju drawn up ready, 
to start tt stratchad from Temple Htatica to 1 
BIk'iIiWii, hut thanks to the ssvMaae* of 
a strong fore* of foot and mounted police 
it was dispatched without a tillrh A subsidiary I 
■>koc*«sIo«i. niunfa waa amt by a separate route 
to Hrdr Pork, waa made up of horaa-drawa I 
ralrk-b* containing children u'to vr«te to douce | 
round the maypole ami to take part in a 
choral prognuiun*. Th* route followed by 
tba main ptoacoesan was im Nurtnlk.-itr**t, I 
Kingsway, and Oiloolwlrtw* to Marbs* Arch. 

A* It moved aiowtr on ita way th* (mi- 
ce* ion Irnirtbinwl, sad whiw the vanguard hsd 
atrtvod at 11 ydn Park the rrairncet units were 
still in th* neigh bosnhnod of Mt. Oit*s's-i>irewn 
A great congestion of trail 1* wn» oauaoi in 
OiMatrsrf, and the police were uUipd to 
allow westward bound ▼; hi lira to proceed m 
the wrong vie of the rrwil. Many of th* 
ile i no a* tnL. as rang nurrhlng songs- and 
fitm trine to time gave vent To iubukr war 
cries. The inost input** catch phrase lioroud 
tote- Ualp the Miners. " 

Much rpwruliitKjei was arouse! by a teWcau 
which represented a to pi to lint lolling in an 
armchair with lin feet resting amid a (tfc of 
money bags cm a table. Th* car on which this 
set was mounted was drawn by a i*|Kw*n(sti<« 
party of work**, nail behind It marched a 
band c 4 members of th* Oathdrc Prusade- 
Amoog those who can>|> **d this curious roar 
guard were men curbed as prseata. On* of then 
curried a rsw while * native* swung a recur. 

Although tb« trading members of 11* iir>- 
coraksi reached the Park about J.J0, late 
contingent were «Ull striving at t.4B. On* 
of the List part i«w to ranch th* miwting-grcnuid 
uws n delegation from the fodim tkwmm’a 
L'bkxi. It wna genre -Py agreed * name the 
nrgsnisepi that the crowd lr* One of the 
largest which had ever at tended a Labour Pwy 
ilemuiiktrstii in io lum 'loo. Ita number was 
eeUmated at not Wra than 58,000. 


Srtn.il* » TItdb Fan. 

When the procnaron raoebed Hyds Park a 
nutnbrc of meetings were formed, which were 
address -d by numerous raonkms. Amotss them 
were Mr. 0. O. Ammon, V.P., and Mi*. Svilsl' 
vuk. M.P. Another pletlonn which attracted 

a larg* audiaco* waa owe raprosenta’.! vu of tbo 
worltn of Mmmts. R. Ho* and Co., of K ad clil . 
and here a aeoilct-clad woman spoke far some 

Urn*. 

On the arrival of Mr. Ssklatvaln. a hue* 
crowd aacortwl Win across th* pork to the 
wagon of the Young Uoratnunfet Leogu*. 
After upholding th* aid* of the minors In the 
dkfp-ts. h« urged on has bearers the advisa- 
bility of not attempting to purchase the 
rains*, tbs railways, and other great indus- 
tries i instead, b* sa.il, the proper thing to do 
was to go ahead and tail* theta. Another of his 
remarks wee that the Union Jack bad lor 
hundreds of yoors harboured and proton W 
fooh and rogues, and it was high tltue it was 
turn down. 

There was narrr any trouble between the 
PeaeWU or the. Labour Party which vrarrantad 
any action on th* part of th* police. At enc 
time, however, there was a slight skirr.ulsh 
with a psrty of th* national F***l*ti who drove 
up to the Marble Arab tied of the Pork, nincLiig 
the National AnUtora. They ftiiitJnued to 
driv* on in their mow-oooeh and a Bimtbrr of 
the Labour people boarded an omnibus and 
gav* chaw. Th* conductor was posnrfrn 
to *cm the rusk, ftrvrra.1 id the men hung 
on to tlw roil* and steps, and contiau*!! 
following Uw motor coach as far as Kesutoc- 
ton. wh*r» It turin-d down a side -street, 

Tbe May l>ay Mr-vels orgnnrred by th* In- 
dependent Labour Party wwre held yceterday 
»ft«n>oc*i at the NLtwnd Theatre. Children 
from various Socialist sellout* danced and — -f- 
cireUently, and a on m petition for choir* was 
won by th* Ctaphara Socialist Sunday he hoot. 
Miss Ishbct MacDonald, in tirau-nting tha 
aidald to th* winners. said that It tn* pleasant 
U> hmr Urging hka that, M th«e was not 
much harmony m the outside vitlJ. Xb* 
parfoevnano. was brought to On end with th* 
crowning of Vet* Hillman as Ibb year's May 
Cf 


Clipping: The Times, 3rd May 1926 

On Monday 3rd May, he and my mother were sitting together in our billiard 
room at home when two men in raincoats and trilby hats could be seen coming 
through the garden gate and approaching the house. Father said to my 
mother: “Sehri, I think this means trouble, but don’t worry.” The two men 
were, of course, detectives. My brother opened the door to them and showed 
them in. They told Father they had come to arrest him and read out the 
charge. They then asked if they might use the telephone and put a call through 
to Bow Street police station; the telephone call informed them that they had 


336 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


arrested Father prematurely, as the Emergency Powers Act, under which he 
was to be indicted, had not yet been passed. They then made the position clear 
to my parents and asked Father to make himself available later. My father 
assured them he would either be at home or in the House of Commons and 
would be ready at any time to receive them. 

The detectives were not the only ones to be a bit premature. Home secretary 
Joynson-Hicks had said the following in the House of Commons, a week 
before Father had made his speech: 

“If I may say so, the hon member for North Battersea has for a long time 
been a great temptation to me. I must confess that more than once my 
fingers have itched when I read some of the hon member’s speeches. 
Listen to this: on 22nd March this year he said: ‘The Union Jack is 
nothing but a symbol of murder and robbery’. That may not he 
seditious, but, after all, we on this side, and many members opposite, 
believe in the Union Jack. Our blood boils when we hear statements of 
that kind made in regard to the Union Jack.” 

Father conducted his own defence when he appeared in Bow Street Police 
Court on 6th May, the case having been adjourned for two days when he first 
appeared on Tuesday 4th May. 

[Editor’s note: Bail was provided by George Lansbury.] 

After that first hearing and adjournment, he was certain that he would be sent 
to prison. He was afraid that I would be greatly distressed by the news and 
said he would explain everything to me himself, which he did, at bewildering 
length and detail— remember, I was not yet seven years old. He explained to 
me about the miners being asked to accept less money, he explained what a 
strike was, and he explained his speech in Hyde Park and why he had made it. 
“So, you see, I think the government will send me to prison for a little while, 
and I may be away from home for quite some time.” 

“O, good!” I exclaimed, jumping up and down and clapping my hands, “then I 
can sleep with Mummy!” I seemed to have inherited Mother’s capacity for 
minimising the dramatic effects of any political calamity. I hope Father was 
more relieved than disappointed by my apparent indifference to his enforced 
absence— after all, he had wanted to save me from any distress. 

On 7th May 1926, Saklatvala appeared before Sir Charles Biron. He conducted 


337 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


his own defence, addressing the court for nearly an hour. He said: “...I 
consider myself just as unnecessarily called upon to be bound over as our 
Prime Minister might be. It was never my intention either at this meeting or in 
any of my propaganda work to incite any sort of disorder or encourage any 
sort of breach of the peace.” (The proof of the pudding was in the eating, for no 
breach of the peace and no disorder had in fact resulted from the speech.) 


Sir Charles Biron contended that there was no doubt that the speech in 
question was a seditious speech, calculated to provoke public disorder. He 
bound the defendant over to keep the peace for twelve months. 



MR. SAKLATVALA SENT TO 
PR ISON. 

KKiUSAL TO BK ROITND OVRK. 

. ***<> Court y«*roday, 

b<£jm Sir Chart.. Bunn, Mr, jUMo. 
v*l«, M.P. far North Hotter***, 

%o «n adjeunmj cbargo an^-inif tfcat be 
the pubUr aud 

“ of t*i « mmi' hrMvAes at 

«kn i»<k« end otiiir idnoal aod Milk* 
«p<m him to »***, „hy bo AunlS 

DM cuter >nte rteogiiWinapi u*d find 
rnrrrtei be bio future good bahavfon. 
The du pm. wt of t mad. 

by the defendant *t the Mor-Dky 
•fomanjOwtioe la Hpdu Park- 
Mr. W. U IbotagMoa, mfieitar, who 
KptwMnCxI the dckatbot an the fba> 
oecarion, iahmated that ha Mould i*»w 
nimt oot Mo own ftefra^e. 

Adrirturlmf the Court for Marl* u, 
hour, Mr, feUatval. .aid it ni novur 


prefomd to (laud aritariffag lhim ooo- 

■UU. > _ 

Sr Churn* Btroa tan] tW n, nan,,. 
abU man mulct bare any cW* bat that 
J" »" <*o«dnn waa a wditfou* 

Mfoulalrtl la. prartfca pjl.lio dfo- 
ardw and it waa the man miscfckvnu, 
Mtnadeahqg the eirmmttaoo* fa trkkh it 
woedtlmnd. Qa bound (ho dafewhukl 
■TO In bn own nccguiianeea in 19(0. b. 
kesp the pea** for 12 tu* th*i. and 
ardjmtd Inin to find two nnbu fa H50 
■“[i ® X* to pfuon tor Iwo month*. 

The ditonitrat decDo*** to hi bc^ixl 
wwm r io4 wW that thr» imtirMozmct 
Ik in tk fW« dhrkiu^ 1 
r-r CnAncj Bbim **id ttiftt tbm **. - 
■} Action foe neori. *h 0 
nutted fo pernio & ifoboiH of &*di~r 
Kirttiwi, and he would mate* „> Mra* * 

ILw a la* a*a* 1 


Clipping: The Times, 7th May 1926 

The defendant said, “In my honour and conscience I cannot accept the 
decision to be bound over.” (The report says that a voice in court cried, “Hear! 
Hear!” but that there was no further demonstration.) Saklatvala was sent to 
prison for two months; he served his sentence in Wormwood Scrubs. 


338 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


On the way to the prison the escorting detective offered Father a cigarette, 
which he refused. The detective urged him to take it, “It’s the last one you’ll 
have for quite a while,” he said. When Father explained that he did not smoke, 
the detective said, “Oh well, prison won’t be such a hardship for you then— 
that’s always what men miss most.” 

When Father reached the prison, more kindly advice was proffered, this time 
from the prison officer who was registering him as an inmate. When Father 
was asked to state his religion, he replied, “None.” But the officer advised him 
to put down C of E, so that he would qualify for church services on Sunday 
mornings. “It makes a welcome break in the routine,” he thoughtfully 
explained, “and gives you a chance to be with other prisoners.” So he was 
admitted as a Church of England man! His visits to the Chapel gave him some 
comfort. When he got home he explained to Mummy that he joined in the 
prayers and hymns, but always put her name in place of the deity! (Although I 
was unaware of this until much later, whenever I was singing hymns in 
assembly at school, I invariably substituted ‘Sak-lat-va-la!’ for ‘Hallelujah!’) 


339 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


^ ■Parliament. 


HOUSE OF COMMONS. 

F»nuT, Mat 1 . 

The Spb*KjOi took the chair at «|cv«u 
o'clock. . 


Mr. RAKLATV ALA’S ARREST. 


Tbs Strakkr read a latter from the 
Chief Ifngutrate at How-street Police 
Court cnnoerMtog Um conviction and «*o- 
teaca of two mouth* impncomneot in the 
aeoond division paaaad on Mr. Baklatvala. 
M.P. 

Mr. Kuu-uood (Dtunhutoo, Lab.), 
aihrd whether than waa no way in wtrioh 
the House could protect it* member*? 
i Laughter. and a Unionist manbee,— ** Hr 
« piMeetad !*>- Mr. S&klatvala was a 
* tracker within tbeir gates ( laughter). 

The Bwmcw, — Tb» boo. member can 


only apeak on a point of order, and be 
cannot argue the matter. 


Mr. KtUtoooc asked whether there waa 
no way in which the all-powerful Honae 
Of Gammon* could compel the Government 
to step in and aay that Mr. SaklatvaU 
wa« not to be interfered with T 
The Swakbs, — A member of this House 
aa regards the criminal law is in exactly 
the same position aa any other person 
(ebeers). ; ‘ •/ • _ 

Mr. Eukwood, — H as a member of this 
House not got privilege » 

The Swum,— No ; the privilege of a 
member of this House does not cover any 
breach of the criminal law (cheer*). 

Mr. Kirkwchjd, — T he man wbo is the 
least influential and humblest member of 
the House from the Government's point 
of view is the tnan whom they nave 
arrested and imprisoned ! 

• This Stkulmi, -The hon. member 
oatmoc argue the matter. 


Clipping: The Times, 8th May 1926 

I was recently told an apocryphal story which is amusing, even though I 
cannot vouch for its veracity. It is said that when Father made his first 
appearance in the chapel, one prisoner asked another, “Who’s that bloke?” His 
neighbour whispered in reply, “He’s a Parsi— he’s in for sedition,” This was 
whispered along the line until it had become, “He’s a parson— he’s in here for 
seduction.”! 

The voice that had cried out “Hear! Hear!” in court so jubilantly was that of my 
mother, overwhelmed on this one occasion, so that despite her usual quiet and 
retiring demeanour, she expressed publicly her wifely pride. She was to receive 
many letters from wellwishers after Father’s departure for prison. One of them 
was from Mr H.A. Heath, Hon. Secretary of the National Union of Clerks. He 


340 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


told her that at a meeting of his Surrey Branch, there had been some 
discussion on the subject of Father’s imprisonment, some members wishing to 
send their condolences and others to express admiration and congratulation; 
it had been left to Mr Heath to decide on how to write. Her reply I find 
touching in its simplicity and directness. 

“Dear Mr Heath,” she wrote on 21st May 1926: 

“Very many thanks to you and your Branch for your message and kind 
feelings expressed by you all. I am afraid that my feelings, like your 
letter, are a little mixed, but on the whole, I think I am happy to receive 
your congratulations and not your sympathy. To tell you the truth, I 
have considered the many messages of sympathy rather out of place, 
because I was really very proud to see my husband make the firm stand 
he made, and to go to prison rather than go back on his word and 
pretend to be sorry for what he said. My husband’s reply to the 
magistrate when he asked him to be bound over was the following: ‘In 
my honour and conscience, I cannot accept your decision to be bound 
over but will go to prison for two months.’ I could not help feeling 
proud; at the same time I felt sorry that he had to go to prison, but I 
would not have liked him to make any other decision. I shall keep your 
letter to show my husband when he comes home.” 

During Father’s sojourn in prison, which he found very interesting and 
stimulating, (and which proved very restful for him physically), we received 
many visits from ex-prisoners, all bearing messages for my mother from 
Father. When the first one arrived, looking rather like a character out of a 
whodunnit, Mother was a bit nervous and asked my eldest brother, Dorab, to 
remain with her in the room. But, whatever their erstwhile crimes had been, 
they were all happy to bear glad and loving tidings from Father— they were all 
very kindly towards us and all spoke warmly of their unusual fellow-prisoner. 
My mother asked one of them what he had been sent to prison for— he seemed 
so quiet and reserved; in reply he showed her a scar across his throat— he had 
been imprisoned for attempted suicide (a crime in those days). Mother felt 
deeply embarrassed and grieved and never again enquired about the reasons 
for their incarceration. One of them brought a piece of prison bread for 
Mother to taste, baked in the prison— a sort of ‘speciality de maison.’ Another 
one complained bitterly of the meagre prison diet and said sarcastically in a 


34i 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


gruff voice, “...and anuwer fing, they boil yer eggs too ’ard!” (meaning, of 
course, that they got no eggs). My innocent and ingenuous sister said blithely, 
“Oh, Daddy won’t mind that— he loves hard boiled eggs!” 

One of our unusual visitors smuggled a written message from Father out of the 
prison; he apologised for not coming immediately upon his release, but he had 
smuggled the note out under his tongue and had to wait for it to dry. He 
explained to Mummy, “There are other places I could have put it, begging your 
pardon!” 

Father had used the tissue paper that covered photographs he had been 
allowed to keep with him. He received copies of Hansard as a member of 
Parliament, and also he was permitted special visits from his solicitor, because 
he was conducting a court case against Tata’s and cousin Dorabji at the time. 

I celebrated my seventh birthday while Father was in prison— it was the only 
birthday I ever spent without him during his lifetime. Wherever he was and 
whatever he was doing, even when it meant travelling all night to come and all 
night to go back to his work, he always celebrated my birthday at home. (I 
think this was true of all other family birthdays, but childhood memories tend 
to be self-centred). But Mother gave me a gabardine raincoat and told me it 
was Father’s birthday present to me. I just assumed that he had been 
especially taken out of the prison to the shop to buy it for me! It seemed a very 
important present indeed. 

An even more important birthday present came from Mother’s aunt in Tansley 
in the shape of a little black puppy. We called him Binky and he was my 
faithful, loving and loved companion till his death when I was at college. 
Although Father was fond of animals he had never allowed any of us to have a 
dog, because it would add to my mother’s already gruelling workload. But 
when he came home and found Binky already installed, he raised no 
objections. 

Soon after the beginning of his sentence a rather spiteful girl at my convent 
school put her tongue out at me as she passed me in a corridor and said, 
mouthing and emphasising each cruel syllable, “Your daddy’s in prison for 
saying nasty things about the King!” and I said, with an air of knowledgeable 
superiority, “Oh, no he isn’t. He’s in prison for sedition!” 

All in all, 1926 was an eventful year for me as well as for the nation! 

The authorities were afraid that there might be demonstrations in support of 


342 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Father on his release from prison. So they sent him out a day early, but would 
not tell him in advance of the exact time. Father sent a message to Mother 
through his solicitor, asking her to be outside the prison gates as early as 
possible on the morning in question; he said she should bring flowers for the 
chapel with her name on them; he would go to the chapel and would thus 
know when she had arrived. He explained when he got home that he just 
wanted to know Mother was near him and he wanted hers to be the first face 
he saw when he came out into the world again. 

On his release the Workers’ Weekly wrote: 

“By far the most dramatic incident in the House of Commons this week 
was the sudden and unexpected appearance of Saklatvala, straight from 
Wormwood Scrubs. At 10.30 he was in prison; at noon he was sailing 
merrily into the Tories.” 

Here are extracts from his speech on that day: 

“I hope the House will pardon me for any slips on this occasion, because 
I have only just returned to this House from a semi-socialistic 
institution in which I have been taken care of on a much better scale 
than the poor miners. I also beg at this juncture to express my gratitude 
for the many considerations which have been shown to me, and also for 
the happy impressions I carry away of some of the brighter sides of 
British character in regard to the treatment meted out to me by British 
prison officials, which I have reason to admire... 

“I have been permitted through the courtesy of Mr Speaker and the 
Home Secretary to follow the debates that have taken place from day to 
day during my absence and I understand from a study of those debates 
that this morning’s special subject for discussion is the question of the 
money which has been sent to the miners from Russia in aid of the 
miners’ families who at the present moment are in dire distress... 

“We are apt to forget that it is the right of all those possessing money to 
spend it as they like, and in whatever country they like. This has been 
done by the British nation and by British individuals in the past and 
they are still doing it in other countries. When these facts are borne in 
mind, we soon see how mad we are in trying to differentiate between 
our own actions in this respect and similar actions by other nations 
when we are blinded by prejudice... 


343 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“I ask hon members to be good enough to remember how a short time 
ago a very keen interest was taken by a number of French citizens in the 
parliamentary elections in this country, where a campaign was being 
run by free-traders, and these Frenchmen sent subscriptions to help the 
Free Trade movement in this country. I was right in the middle of 
research into this subject when I was forced to take a rest. Again, I ask 
the House to make quite sure whether one or even two Liberal members 
of this House, who are honourably associated with the history of this 
House, were not enthusiastically financed, quite honourably, of course, 
by that well-known American citizen, Andrew Carnegie. 

“I would ask the House whether this nation, individually as well as 
nationally, has not poured forth British gold into Armenia on 
humanitarian motives? Do they never think what suspicions the Turkish 
government has been casting upon that? Have you not been pouring out 
money to help the abolition of slavery? How would those people who 
sincerely believed in the benefit of the slave system at that time think 
about your action then? How about temperance associations? 

“Travellers come from America, France, Germany or Belgium, look at 
various institutions here, and subscribe five, twenty, thirty or fifty 
pounds to any institution which appeals to them, merely from 
humanitarian motives. What is wrong? Do you want to undermine the 
whole of that? Do you want to say to the world that money shall only be 
subscribed geographically? Look at your Christian missions; look at the 
millions of pounds that you are sending out of this country to China. It 
may be a very noble act from your point of view, but it might be quite 
the contrary from the point of view of the Chinaman or the 
Mohammedan or the Buddhist in other countries. 

“You want this country to forget its past, present and future proclivities, 
and to be ruled by blind prejudice against Russia. Let us look at the 
facts. There has been a strike— a general strike or a sectional strike— it 
doesn’t matter which. One thing which does matter, and which no 
human being can deny, is the economic and material hardship and 
distress that follows during the period of a strike... 

“There is no denying that, in all sincerity... the present people of Russia 
believe that the supremest good in this world is to assist the struggling 


344 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


and starving workers and their children, in whichever part of the world 
they may be. That is their new standard. They do not make a secret of it. 
There is no conspiracy whatever about it. To them, the supremest 
standard of philanthropy, the highest standard of human good, is not 
temperance, is not religious institutions, is not the question of legal 
slavery or its opposite, is not socialism. To them, at the present 
moment, honestly and in all sincerity, the highest standard of human 
good is the assistance of workers in other countries in their moments of 
distress. 

“...I myself announced a few weeks ago, when there was a strike of mill 
operatives in Bombay, that I had been instrumental in remitting to 
Bombay £1,054, which I honestly believe was subscribed by the textile 
workers of Russia... 

“We were permitted to listen to news from the outside world in the 
church on Saturday mornings in the Wormwood Scrubs socialist 
institution where I was... I heard there that miners and their children 
were still starving, that this is the 6th week of the strike, and so on, that 
trade union funds have become exhausted and then it was impressed 
upon us that a sinful and criminal action was being carried on when 
some human beings were sending £100,000 to assist these starving, 
human children. 

“At the same time, we were told that a certain gentleman had offered the 
sum of £100,000 as a prize for some race horse. We are told to believe 
that this last action was a glorious, patriotic, righteous action, when 
miners and their families are starving owing to the action of those who 
came to possess that surplus of £100,000 for race horses...” 

There was jubilation and celebration at Saklatvala’s release. A big meeting and 
social was held in Battersea and he was, perhaps even more than before, in 
demand as a speaker. Even before the strike, a meeting addressed by 
Saklatvala was a great event in many of the mining and industrial areas of the 
provinces. It is recorded that on one occasion, miners were brought in from far 
and wide in buses and coaches, and 70 miners actually walked seven miles and 
back again to hear Saklatvala speak. There was never any disorder or breach of 
the peace at any of these meetings, attended as they were by hundreds of 
people, indeed, often by more than a thousand when the halls were big 


345 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


enough, or meetings were held in the open air. 

But throughout 1926 the Home Secretary kept extending the Emergency 
Powers Act, under which, again and again, the police, following instructions 
from Joynson- Hicks, cancelled any meeting that was to be addressed by 
Saklatvala. Often the cancellation came after the audience was assembled, 
many of them having come from miles away, and they were told to go home 
and that no meeting could take place after all. If the authorities really wanted 
to avoid a breach of the peace, this was surely a strange way to go about it. I 
cannot help but think that they would have welcomed rowdy scenes from these 
bitterly disappointed audiences, but nothing of the kind happened. Saklatvala 
himself was frustrated and unable to carry on the propaganda that had 
become his all-important work. 


SOVIET 


“NEWS” 

STRIKE. 


OF THE 


ENCOURAGEMENT BY 
HEADLINE. 

Kmtn tlw b«*iiii»ing ol tlio Oiteral 
Ihe oxiiltatiou mzjtl t!» hcmdline* 
the oR.i-iaI Soviet neu-siwpWH, Jzrvatia 
»’td Pratrln, proclaimed I lie triumphant 
prottpous of the “ tin I it *miui ixt ilw hour 
tftoint-." The following mv tfoijne of 
the headmfr* 

"Your end a Hoff Atll™ Worker* on 
nlnkr.”“ tompirt* Knit tray MepPoffc. Panic 
If M** Exehaoge. Urwt, Drop in the Rate of 
tlie blrrllng." tins * ion nut Class. Tin 
Oorernraent ol the Cool Magnates h mobilising 
|t« Pater* and Organising Hhefcfccs lor Figtit- 
Pruheartat." " Britain Cut Off from 
Is* Coal i neat." ** Panic Stricken B.x.rgt-uisio 
KTceUig to k-i-o.ii** •• <• Mutxlio« the Cap italiat 
***• Fntile Athai|4a to T»ue Buuranli 
Papers." “ Unroot Aiuoog Troopo. Welsh 
Confined to barrack* for Broach of 
Uuciiiane. Uox.oainent Statement on Riot 
n * AJitieihoC - ** Powcrfoe Hatred. ComraiSo 
halcJulsala Sentaoevd to lenpriaonmeat." 

Communlot* Active. Coainriis (Movieta) of 
Action Kncmed Every* here * “ Soviets on 

lbs Watch Hart™ IW r Cut offtroS 
oa« ol Londons Hoaptiaia Frequcatsd by the 
HmuthvoU!*. The Local Sorirt l^vtrni that most 
<d the Medical Staff liad Enrol to) in the O.MA” 
“Haldutn Preparing a Bloody Hath r«r the 
* rOkurtAt. Ttoiki* in tsinijoii blood 

if '! or M T * Hh f* m Bull.' • - • tfartfkge • in 
'» yi nitk n Abljrjr. PurlUm-Tit. in Dnrfcjitt*." 
" Tnulu Union Council UrnaiUecn Ttunapcet 
tolonnaLoc. Pood. Itadna-lioiw atxl Finance 
SMtUms. .MSIIlura ul Cop|« of the Brtf,** 
it ocher. “ “ Choos In London Street*. Hour 
nolkie Pttnfc (Mrkkim by Cancellation of 
itace MecitlW* and the Appmrar.** of The 
riuuu a* a small Ty pe-written Sheet of Paper.'* 
Only one Steadier mar Perhaps be abfci to 
1-eavc Finland •• «• Hal. may Transport at a 

iHamMlU. lining to lncrptri. no- of tha 
blackleg Drivers, Railway An-tdent* are Be 
coming more fn-qooet.'- (This * fthim aa a 
T.U.C. official atalement.) “ Meagre Koapooa* 
to Ap-tieal toe Special Co.mUblca. Oowrnmeot 
Mobvlnlnc Pollre Rcaems. “ 


Clipping: The Times, 18th May 1926 


346 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


He could still, of course, speak in the House of Commons, and this he 
continued to do, forcefully and to great effect. Whenever the Emergency 
Powers Act was brought up for further extension, Saklatvala vigorously 
opposed it. In July, he contended: 

“...It is from that point of view, that I, as a representative of the workers, 
should always oppose the Emergency Powers, because according to a 
confession of a supporter of the government this measure is required, 
not because any real or genuine emergency exists, but because we want 
to neutralise the rights of the workers as organised in their trade unions. 
That is the argument of the hon and learned gentleman, who perhaps 
was more clever than he required to be on this occasion.” 

He went on to say: 

“...The crisis came as a dispute between the employers and the 
employees. The armour of the employees is the trade union 
organisation, trade union legislation and trade union practice, and in 
order to make the fight unequal, the master class, through its puppet 
government, wants to deprive the working class of that legitimate and 
constitutional armour... We oppose this Emergency Powers Act exactly 
on this ground, and it is an Act which really does not enable the officials 
to meet some emergency... but it is an Act produced with the deliberate 
object of abusing it, as we have seen the present government abuse it 
every day of the last 2 months with the deliberate object of using it as a 
class instrument of the basest type, and the deliberate object not of 
using it against Lord Hunsden and others, but of using it against certain 
representatives of the working class... 

“The existing crisis is not only a money crisis... It does not simply mean 
that over a million men are out, with the families, facing all the dangers 
and hardships of life, and saying that they would rather starve than 
surrender... We who are responsible as representing the organised 
workers of this country... are responsible to them for carrying on a 
progressive fight to demand and obtain for them their social, political 
and constitutional advantages and rights... 

“The Emergency Powers Act prevents us from carrying on that fight. 
Some of our speakers have a perfect right in such a crisis to speak to the 
men and women of the nation and to show to them the dangers of the 


347 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


indiscriminate use of the Army and the police. We have a right to 
demand for these men their rights in the managerial control of their 
own industry... 

“The Emergency Powers Act permits the masters and the capitalist 
newspapers complete freedom to advance their rights... to put forward 
their claims, demands and criticisms, and to indulge in their vehement, 
unjust and unpardonable abuse of Cook and other persons fighting for 
the miners; while on the other side, those who are fighting the great 
battles of the working classes are deprived of the right of speaking and 
fighting for their political, social and other privileges. 

“We are now asked to renew the Emergency Powers Act for the third 
time. I think we could have pardoned the government for the first time 
as they thought an emergency existed... and they sought to protect 
themselves behind the Emergency Powers Act... but if in two months the 
government fail to bring about a settled condition... the government 
ought to resign and give up the job... 

“Honest men and women with clear and logical views, have definitely 
come to the conclusion... that the government and the Ministers of the 
Crown, have ceased from yesterday to be the impartial and trusted 
Ministers of the nation. From yesterday they are merely the hired agents 
of the coal owners. There is not the slightest doubt about it. 
Legislatively, officially, definitely, technically, they are the hired agents 
of the coal owners of this country. They have ceased to be Ministers of 
the Crown, and it is a falsehood to describe them as Ministers of the 
Crown, passing an Address to His Majesty. From today, under the 
Emergency Powers Act, they are going to use the police, the Army and 
other forces of the Crown, and even the Civil Servants, in a class war to 
fight their friends’ battle... 

“It is a great strain upon the loyalty of the policemen, the soldiers and 
the Civil Servants... Nevertheless, the government resent it when we go 
to these people and say, ‘The government are using you for a purpose 
which is immoral, unconstitutional and illegal.’ 

“Every policeman, every soldier and every Civil Servant who is a man of 
honour and conscience, should either chuck his job or act against the 
government, rather than lend himself to be a tool in their fight against 


348 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


the nation.” 


THE COMMUNIST 
PAPEliS. 


INSTRUCTIONS FROM 
MOSCOW* 


party organization 

AND FI7NDS). 

'IV) CuVrrmn*fit DiimJ rnWf^AT tC 

* Mu» J 5 c<ik S Mftj. ftic t 

"•VT* thtl XO Afrrr fnt4 t 
4l. rwv on thf* Ulf)l of ifaji 

I.V.uuuuiiixt WIkx un fJcttixr 14 iml ?1 
w* Tli* pr-'An «an Mowd *t 

*■" hMdgu«rL4r» rf ttU 1'liummnirt 

P«ty C < Crtnt Rnr»^ in, Kinr^irnwl. 

Covant <4*rrt«|. «i.J of rbft Salim.ll 
M 1 "* ' 1 )' Muvaui»r, JS, Crlol On-nod- 
lIlWV. arid. Ol o'J&#r* Djjdivuu. |>h v* r^J 

t** 5 * in. veto abmvmI f ZC OEdCliuuliuii. 

7W Jt«:.12asta HlMni ice 

hffV . ift u wrm . lurt «hr««r 

W f r |^ r HMtoiimari fhnMfCtt, V*> fur 

fhe* liCfcfc thry rhrw c«i U»c entity* 

■tw=wH*d And xyilMudh ci 

BnluL lifn Etinliiami* fa-«fgn ♦i-f.- 
ClA^. li id H-f.'Wtx ifjjk, julaJU Um »v*tTV* 
‘ uf il*« < r py.-vn . Party 

iii Uiu tuuyyfcy te ltirtll, at it *•> resumed 
Id K.miuiKa with ULlrualioa* 1 rwMh’td 
/t««u lliO iu:mlxa i:*n 

= 5 «trt*: in o v«y Mrytb, m»Jur Uvtnyr&fo 

'•d/ilhirrt Ufthln •X'VTm t't ■ mflii. 

*!»•► lwv» r.TTTjb^ffl uf nrc-iV>rmn~i : infTlt‘ 

T>/«™ ton h.r, T*v*Unnjw nf 

tbcih* r CUiIh,.* y| i-jtf jn_i y M rH ita fV«* 
£41 iouair from flip ^ 


>!?.. HJUILATTAT 4 

M A !>U* r < Sflfcrf pr«t •irm 

lix. *■■-». iUtv iU In U»* k*r»* 4 j of Lu 

C.rW.iL rvcMcCnr rhn aRJ^pJU. u* tt* fW, 

n»fhi ivuty tt« iAt<i >r r.»« . •• xt>«« 

*• *** na»*b Jitttr*"’ bo tay* •• « i„v ..^h 
llAv >tlh:ui drjtffi fl'A'ip, tc i«jd m. rt.r 
lUfty JmU *.*:• ti^uMvwl lex: ta '.VciibcMD* 
la I.txmI 1HI/.YI. rw.„^l U rr ■.■mctxx Mil 
tifdniwu t*.*i au- a wr* |»jr*. aiaaKUeo 
ftT tit litiutj. 

1 In "Ut to »anii>> H.i(. *< out x.V .,,1 
norrtw* taeamrm U idr, .b« ’tarn- fit/j. 
ft . mil net n«vil t* ill* m 3 l of xxl-ixilv 
mptanvem. .rex. *n urn roqiarc tc&i M.,- 
*w ml lb.; \arrf <nVi* it Vo «lw» * 
.Ui^orya AAAxjr Uu lolUfioilCi ptc- 
U:n of oil tl.. wed fc vat. .1 lUa 

w 'ace lan tauia 1 ptw will. Ilia -Ci*. n* 
**,* Tm>>. «ui fie. lift r.ioa V.ll ha rnwnj ; D .„ 
ax ipm Bc'l •c.lllrt'tj* H|fr, IV. rrn< 
M|vol U< lx*< At *t JImtot tfk Itt 
k«if<ur<T l> Hu 4 I itn niwdSy 
W: jbzrUi FW utllii]* U*»t ||m fTp, 

UK iJprKM lr» (.cfitaU fkr>rtir«i vu j 
ItiTjal !ti#lf mtn 4 L^i-nxI n±>jmx* rr», .. 
Id- 1 lw lc«*li >». iuul i*«rtr and He i( t • ru j 
pdh4r.\J TTMiir tee S^^ir\u hz* Uxu 
by tho Ur. rt#u' i> 1 y- c.P. 
n-/ 4 C \u«» ui» au ltu uzty 

HU-cmvncJr. 111*7 CO uOir ftxlli 

Dir. itaUiir /kHiaaiu/ as srlll lei t: t|ir 
*nr Aipr sb* wmi of *oi U»< 

KidUn of Jrr 9 mmJt 4 v. « 4 nh 4 «bvi <ojI Ua 
trrw^ ,,fC. UhAS:xv]Um U BnkaL %n* ^ 
pun -.»v> U» vnlac aih^ti 

•* wr Mwild I'ul <1 so v--«x. siacnar ^s/.c 
ol V.ir tW • UIp KiU vi^ir R 

Mil'/ c/.< ai IfcjB C.P. ut Um pxijivr rf * 1 ^, 

*» *«No«C mi/ <lw p VirMMtasuc rri^ 
Ik* *cc&*r* W'/b In jir.'al a? t to XuIrtJ 
» ' tual i’.lvM il JjiftctD no litud 
Jun V.« ywlllo. rtf 4i..A. V u7\*v*Xtm 
t-i if. d an ■uluil: tul Mapn ary n*Din 
lhn */TtJ»rt*c ac*iH CTMtlr srzjk.-.ti tar jwJ. 
uf attow MIP.’a.'* 


Dowiytcx icitvms* 

fn*i Drl'm vr iV B A tcOiiJm. 
■Iwuami doloi r.*il Hi» Artf .’iW uf 
ou&»4*0tVir* aCU&nWI Raj Jxau.JTtf<t. 

T.ikm^uO. lacl liter ttia Cerr-TUBki Pwi* 
UT fhpv ' BlitiVk, iii BLitnii Difnajrot, 
llokifl^, a«al m* aif'Kin aliroc«d. 

Tft«: Urtodc ■ lati-x beet. tU oamlil 
?ar;rr/;ot U (U B-i’-iju CCmia.*JLUx laxly 
■— JOr ai^adcK a hibw.ioIi^ 

bj rpno *aa ^t|tv ,, jaU> 1 L OxAnd 

rimn «7 ^|VT?nf rrr t rlxo ir*««- 
■mor >2 lllliui tiobaU VAu njtfTJTmd til? 
aadartllhy if Mr. wJ: «•*».'* «i 4 iiji*c ao 
■TW^U'lI »iUi iv'.alu «C Lm«tf.(.*lu/ imrU( 

b: RtiraJDA In h.T* r li !%•> ro« iV •% frr- 

7bi untmai'm *-d tfca.. lha IV1 
D»u, Tha Hailb ul Cxiord 

In JHwrt |r 4 o rf# fnfr.?h$ i«.«Jla.ai 
calM>*4.H. -ji.aUtuiv »1 : ^no=^b#t% II 1 
tttfilfcb. »; J.iUc.xx.i f.P.Si, aii“U!p ,,1 |... 

aipr«nt IV. hanfimakj : uiduitUI. J A 
Ai>»tbar lx too iKfn rtp *A<U>I 0 >nxl 
lb- tftiiba LAaomakl ru: ty, 6aUt 
•/uaa 51*. Iftl>. tabular a.tiJa airaay it Um 
prwi'r. i. nidi Ir dBMr«n rHh cln.d 
b. &\yV Poltx/ViC. Cacaa^i. ud 
anrxyj AlKcan, T4a jtm, and c'-ttaao atulmi) 
tfU dnbfMl tj< Hi^niiiuti' In Ik kit 
*«■* Cf Udbe. Wt*t» WartdTr. r^TV- K la 
•J^bi that .*4 pjuti.atok jtciUa at m 
ttHf apeak w?h tipx hju ban dy- 

U . I Vo jeortAratteo nf a Tfir^raQDfci: 
i i-x :4 m raxana prUfpa 

•» lbs hflpt trt^r. Tim iiwk s tun 

m |Ar.’ In pftM'ol itnpxrxtioo xen Ml BMn 
omt Sf.h, roltot. Ill i*l|m>T I 111 -' xIUixlx 
BluilliM V11X . x eroAlr^tif ,1 fl v y lid; 
*■ TW. r wl |i .till lira. I li.n. 

-.••KOI pwinif.. lti> pipiion. mil I. 
’“J* 1 ?'.* >fttn Jlf tv Jcv^tuiet£ 

4f a ildtfii. lAiitf poraiJlt faun- nt 

«nr4 UA m ii, m* i.jiv iiuuo to rail Mr 
« *» or rcry •uxinu ttal 
Inf. diroXJ tok«-|iaA." 


Clippings: The Times, 25th June 1926 

So Saklatvala continued to make good use of the House to put forward views 
that the Home Secretary prevented him from putting directly to the people. He 
also drew the attention of the House to the prejudicial use of the Emergency 
Powers Act to suppress even the routine meetings that he always held in his 
constituency, and to the suppression of his meetings in general. 

For instance, he explained to the House that: 

“There is a democratic understanding as far as I am concerned— it is a 
definite pledge which I have observed and kept— to at least once a 
month render an account of what has gone on in Parliament. I do not 
see why suddenly all such meetings of a general character— which in the 
past in no single instance have put any strain upon the police— should 
be prohibited.” 

He had been informed by the local police that they were going to prohibit and 
suppress any meeting that he might try to address in his constituency. 
Although he was the representative of that constituency in parliament and he 
was democratically answerable to the electorate there, he was to be prevented 


349 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


from communicating with them. What price civil rights? What price 
democracy? What price the relationship between the people and their elected 
representative in parliament? Saklatvala claimed in the House that these 
emergency powers were being used, not to control any real national 
emergency, not on a nationwide and impartial manner, but were being abused 
merely to further the interests of the Tory Party. 

When, in July, the Home Secretary asked the House to extend the Emergency 
Powers Act for the fourth time, Saklatvala again vehemently voiced his 
opposition: 

“I want the Home Secretary to note that his coming back to the House 
for the fourth time for these special regulations is an epoch-making 
event. Here is a strong government, or one presumably strong, with a 
large majority in the House, armed with laws which are quite sufficient 
for carrying on the administration of the country, but it comes to the 
House for the fourth time when as a government it is only two years old, 
and says that it is incapable of carrying on the administration of the 
country unless it is armed with most extraordinary and despotic 
powers... and I say that the only honest course for the government to 
take is to throw up the sponge, to admit that it is incapable of finding a 
solution to the present industrial problem, and to tell the country to find 
persons capable of administering the country with ordinary law.” 

I am writing this on November 21st 1989, having seen debate in the House of 
Commons televised for the first time. One of the most interesting aspects of 
these pictures was the sight of large numbers of Conservative members leaving 
the chamber as soon as their leader, the Prime Minister, had recited her little 
piece. These televised reports will undoubtedly show the British public how 
badly attended the debates are. It is not a new phenomenon. 

On 4th August 1926, during the adjournment debate, it was claimed that a 
very long recess was needed for over-worked members of the House. 

Saklatvala intervened to say: 

“The present condition of the House shows about nine members of the 
Conservative Party present. That has been the maximum attendance on 
the opposite benches since the Foreign Secretary spoke. It has been 
known to us that out of the 400 Conservative members, for more than 
three fourths of the time, scarcely 20 members attend to their duties. To 


350 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


describe them to the country as an overworked, exhausted band of hard- 
working men who deserve a three months’ holiday, is a grossly 
misleading statement.” 

Let us hope that the present restriction on showing pictures of the chamber as 
a whole will soon be lifted, so that the general public can see how sparsely 
populated are the benches in that great chamber, seat of the mother of 
parliaments. Such absenteeism in our workshops and factories would leave the 
nation bankrupt and, no doubt, would bring down the wrath of MPs on the 
heads of the offending workers. It would add greatly to the interest of the TV 
viewers if pictures could be extended to include the bars and dining room in 
the House, so that we could see our members at play as well as at work. It is 
frequently emphasised that members have exacting duties to perform behind 
the scenes in committee; perhaps the public could be informed in the press of 
the timetable for the various committee meetings and the names of the 
members attending them. 

On the 27th September 1926, Saklatvala spoke upholding the miners’ claims 
for which they were still on strike, in spite of terrible hardship and want for 
themselves and their families. In the course of a long and detailed speech 
Saklatvala contended: 

“We of the Communist Party, the Cookites or whatever our opponents 
call us, will continue our education of the miners until they realise that 
so long as this slave labour exists in the empire, so long the economic 
position of the British miner will be one of continual danger, and that a 
permanent peace can be established only when that scandalous part of 
British imperialism is ended once and for all. The miners must live. 
Their children must be fed and clothed and medically treated, and they 
are entitled to certain joys of life. 

“If the economic fact is continually proved, generation after generation, 
that the mining industry is not capable of producing the complete 
economic requirements of the miner, and at the same time producing 
royalties, dividends, commissions, large salaries and all kinds of 
camouflaged dishonest profits for the mine-owners, that clearly 
indicates to the miner that the time has arrived when, in defence of his 
wife and children, he must demand the complete abolition of 
shareholders and royalties, and profits and commissions and individual 


35i 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


control. Until that time, there will not be a permanent settlement of the 
dispute. 

“Even if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Leader of the Opposition 
and the Leader of the Liberal Party in the House became a triumvirate 
to deal with the problem, it is moonshine to say that they would bring 
about a permanent peace so long as the economic fact brought about by 
competition between country and country continually demands a 
raising of hours and a lowering of wages... 

“Our appeal to the miners is quite clear. If they want permanent peace... 
we ask them to rely on their own internal strength and to demand 
immediately an embargo on foreign coal... The only salvation for the 
miners is to appeal to their brethren in the trade union movement. They 
should appeal to every man who stokes a boiler or a locomotive to say 
that he would not touch foreign coal, and to tell his employer, ‘If you 
want coal, get British coal and come to terms with the British miner.’” 

On 28th September 1926, the Home Secretary again asked the House to 
extend the Emergency Powers Act. Again Saklatvala opposed the continuance 
of the Act. In the course of a long argument, he told the following anecdote, 
illustrating the muddled and arbitrary way in which these emergency powers 
were being applied. A large procession and a meeting to be addressed by 
Saklatvala had been advertised ten days or so before they were to take place, 
under the auspices of the South Wales Miners’ Federation, on 8th September. 
Late on 7th September, the superintendent of police informed the local agent 
of the Miners’ Federation verbally that the meeting at Hoelycue and 
procession were to be cancelled. It was not until the morning of the 8th that 
police notices appeared prohibiting the procession and adding, “The holding 
of any meeting at or in the vicinity of Hoelycue is also prohibited.” 

Saklatvala asked the House: 

“What is ‘the vicinity of Hoelycue’? Does it reach as far as London, 
Bristol, or even Moscow?... So the miners’ agent ... again telephoned to 
the Superintendent pointing out that they had another meeting, on 
which considerable expense had been incurred, at a place a few miles 
from Hoelycue. He (the Superintendent) said, ‘I cannot tell you whether 
that also comes within the word vicinity or not.’ 

“...Seeing the indefiniteness of it, I wired to the Home Secretary, asking 


352 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


for clarification of the term ‘in the vicinity’. I also wired to the Chief 
Constable, ‘With reference to the circular, should you not define vicinity 
of Hoelycue in actual mileage radius, if you do not desire unnecessary 
harassment of Labour speakers?’ 

“...I had to keep running about in order to avoid the so-called area, and 
the government agent had to go about on a motor cycle to find out 
where I was. At about 3.30 he found me about 12 miles away, because 
the South Wales Miners’ Federation was determined to have that 
meeting and had it, but we had no desire to walk into the provocative 
trap of the constable, or to clash with anybody.” 

Mr Harney: “A good meeting?” 

Mr Saklatvala: “A very good meeting... The other method adopted was 
this: the authorities had a notice of the particular meeting and the 
procession a few days before. But the police did not give us five minutes 
to inform the public that the meeting was cancelled. They rushed the 
people hither and thither and sent out of the area even the charabancs 
in which some of the people arrived— [Hon. member: “Charabancs?”]— 
Yes, the miners have as much right to sit in a charabanc as you have to 
sit in Rolls Royces... 

“If that was the way in which Regulation 22 was used, it was a wrong 
way politically. I think the hon and gallant member for Leith (Captain 
Benn) told us that one of the ambitions of the Home Secretary, as 
proclaimed by his own followers, is that ‘Jix [Joynson-Hicks] is the lad 
to keep the Reds away,’ and if he is simply making use of that regulation 
to keep up that reputation, he is making a gross abuse of his position in 
Parliament.” 

In October, the emergency powers were again on the parliamentary agenda 
and again Saklatvala spoke on behalf of the miners; yet once more he 
emphasised that the cheap production of coal within the British Empire was 
putting unfair competition against the miners of Great Britain. He accused the 
government: 

“There are 50 million tons of coal now raised in the Empire under 
conditions which are a disgrace to anyone who calls himself a civilised 
human being. Not only do the present government permit this, but 
members of the government take a share in the profits, and as long as 


353 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


this game is allowed to go on, the state of affairs cannot be regarded as a 
mere accident of the trade, but as a weapon of the class war... 

“There is not a particle of truth in the suggestion that the economic 
position of the coal industry is such that it will not produce sufficient 
wages for the miners. It will do so if only the government will see to it 
that the unfair competition created by exploited labour, by their own 
colleagues and friends, is checked instead of being helped on by 
exploiters whose names appear every year in the Honours List...” 

In the following month, Saklatvala drew the attention of the House to yet 
another case of the abuse of the Emergency Powers Act by the Chief Constable 
of Derbyshire, who had verbally told the organisers of two meetings in the 
county that, if they would prevent Saklatvala from speaking, the meetings 
could go ahead; but that if Saklatvala were allowed to address the meetings or 
to take the chair, the meetings would be banned. 

His protest was supported by a Labour member, Mr Morgan Jones, who 
stressed that he had no sympathy with the Communist Party but he 
maintained that the issue was of interest to “everyone who likes freedom of 
expression of political opinions.” He agreed with Saklatvala that the 
emergency powers were being abused and misused, suppressing any political 
discussions if they happened to relate to the Communist Party. 

Two days later, the question of banned meetings was again up for discussion. 
The Home Secretary made it clear that chief constables had the right to ban 
any meeting which, in their opinion, was likely to cause a breach of the peace. 
In the course of that debate Saklatvala argued thus: 

“...If I, or any of my communist colleagues, had had a notorious career 
in the past, if event after event had happened, and that as a result of 
addressing meetings, riots and brawls had taken place, I can understood 
that it would give a prima facie cause for anyone honestly to suspect that 
whenever I addressed a meeting, it would end in a brawl. I have 
addressed a few thousand meetings throughout the country and there 
never has been in any instance, any occasion for anyone to be turned 
out, such as is often the case at meetings held by friends of the Hon. 
gentleman. Nothing of that sort has ever happened.” 

On 29th November 1926, the Home Secretary asked for the eighth time for an 
extension of the emergency powers. Saklatvala reiterated the view that, if a 


354 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


Home Secretary could not keep order in the country under the longstanding, 
ordinary laws of the land, he proved himself to be an incompetent Home 
Secretary. He again stressed that the powers were not being used to prevent 
disturbances and riots but rather they were used exclusively against the 
Communist Party, the opponents of the party represented by the Home 
Secretary. He mentioned the case of a speech by a Colonel Leather, in which 
he spoke openly of “bloodshed,” yet there was to be no prosecution under the 
emergency powers. 

“The excuse given was the flimsy excuse that that speech was not delivered in a 
mining area,” said Saklatvala. He continued: 

“The Home Secretary pursued me from the first day of the Regulations, 
when I had spoken in Hyde Park, and I think the nearest coal mine was 
much further away from Hyde Park than from where Col. Leather 
spoke. Hundreds of persons who were arrested and tried, were not 
arrested and tried because they had spoken so many yards nearer or 
further away from a coal mine, but because they belonged to the 
working class movement and were against the coal owners; and whoever 
has spoken of bloodshed and riot and shooting, so long as he was a coal 
owner himself or in favour of the coal owners, is not tried under the 
Regulations... 

“I want to draw his attention to the fact... that his own colleague, the 
Minister of Labour, has delivered a speech which is not only 
contemptible but is criminal under the Regulations, in which he said, ‘It 
is [A.J.] Cook’s folly and cowardice that are ruining the miners.’ 

“Just imagine it. A member of the cabinet, whose family has flourished 
on the starvation, under-payment and over-production of the miners, 
whose family has made money out of the blood of the miners, and are 
today crushing the miners that their future dividends may be higher 
than they ought to be under a just administration— that minister has the 
audacity to refer to Cook as carrying on a policy of folly and cowardice. 
Cook is fighting as a hero against the family of the Minister of Labour, 
who is one of the worst inhuman exploiters, living on the blood-money 
and the sweat-money of the miners... 

“What I want to point out is that Regulations of this sort... are quite 
handy weapons... in the hands of one who has always shown himself to 


355 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


be a party man above everything else. I honour him for being so zealous 
a member of his party; I do not blame him for it, but I suggest that it is 
this over-zealousness which induces him to ask for these regulations, 
rather than his impartial judgement on public peace and public 
affairs...” 

The speech is a long and powerful one. When it was all over, the Home 
Secretary, Joynson-Hicks, felt constrained to say: “I feel that I should 
apologise to the House for being the unwitting cause of letting loose the 
torrent of eloquence which we have just heard from the hon gentleman. But he 
has, if I may say so, one point for which I admire him very much, and it is that 
he never loses his temper. He is always courteous in whatever he says.” I think 
that this observation says much for the character of Saklatvala and also for the 
then Home Secretary, the one for being always courteous, the other for 
acknowledging it. 

This was to be the last time the Home Secretary appealed to the House for an 
extension of the emergency powers, because the miners were forced at last to 
capitulate to the coal owners, accepting longer working hours and reduced 
wages. There is a limit to everyone’s endurance. The hardest thing for strikers 
to endure is the knowledge that their fight, however justified and however 
much it may in the end benefit their families, is, in the short term, causing 
their wives and children to go short of food and warmth and clothing and is 
even putting their homes in jeopardy. 

It is all too easy for strikers to be starved into submission in any prolonged 
fight. The threat of starvation is just as much an act of terrorism as the threat 
of death by quicker and more direct means. It is nonsense for governments all 
over the world to claim that they will not negotiate with terrorists— all 
governments, both capitalist and communist, are themselves terrorists; for 
their ultimate sanction is force, wielded by the Army or by the police or by the 
withholding of the means of livelihood. When they speak of ‘deterrents’ in law 
or by their standing armies, the deterrent is always the threat of violence, the 
instilling of fear, the instilling of terror 


356 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT 

AND MR. SAKLATVALA. 


REFUSAL OF A VISA 

On instruction* from Cairo, tho 
Egyptian Location baa refuaad to visa 
tho paasport of Mr. SskJatvaln, M.P., 
after he bod obtained tho British ondorco- 
ment to visit Effj’pt. He wrote protesting, 
and tho Legation hoa replied that timer 
action is in accordanoe vrith regulations. 

Writing oo Dscmnbor re to the Socrpotnry 
o t the Egyptian Legation, Mr. Saklttvala 
■aid i — It is somewhat puzzling that aft-r 
th» Brfckih Porvign Office, which it in reality 
a tituUr Power orec Egypt, has granted a 
panpurt to a British M.P., altar due inquiries, 
Egypt should condemn that Government and 
tvrtRO that dccWon. I am experienced enough 
to realixu that Egypt's refusal may be from 
Egypt, y*4 not from tho Bgypttaos. I shall, 
therefore, thank you to enlighten me aa to 
whether your Howl is based oo your own 
authority, an any standing regulations against 
members of tha British Commimht Party, or 
whether it is tlic desire ot tha Egyptian 
Oovernment to wdcocne only such British 
M.l’.’s who endoixet tho half -mill Ion sterling 
fin e and the mule ting of ilia Sudan, and to 
refsiHS admiasion to tnoas who oppceed three 
measMtve, or whether the British authorities 
In Egypt are advising his Egyptian Majesty's 
Gorenuneot to prohibit entry into Egypt, of 
such members of tho British PariUuuent as 
they disapprove of." 

In reply the befTotarjr ot tlie Legation 
wrote H" I beg to state that, in accordance 
with our Consular regulations, endorsement of 
your pMsport cannot bo granted.' Mr. 
Snkiatvala nailed on Thursday W. by the 
P. and O. steamer Rsnssk for India eta Mar 
n’ULeo, He bad proposed to spend a few weeks in 
Egypt on his way back from India next March. 
In the meantime, he has circularized members 
at Parliament asking tbcm to raise the question 
of this rcfUM.1 of passport in tho Houoo at 
Common*. 


Clipping: The Times, 3rd January 1927 

It is not only governments, but individuals too who exert their power over 
each other to induce their fellow-beings to conform to their standards— the 
parent threatens the child, the teacher threatens the pupil, the manager 
threatens the worker, the law threatens the citizen, with some sort of 
punishment against non-conformity. It is inevitable. Terror is necessary to an 
orderly life— and a disorderly life is a terror in itself. But the hypocrisy in 
denying the use of terror is not inevitable and is shameful, as any hypocrisy 
must be. 

For a man whose primary political function was the conduct of propaganda for 
his party, this all-but-total suppression of his meetings from May to November 
in 1926 was frustrating, both for Saklatvala himself as well as for the 
Communist Party, whose cause his oratory normally served so ardently and 
effectively. This mutual irritation may well have been the spur for the 


357 




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Comintern to arrange for Saklatvala to visit India and to conduct communist 
propaganda there. 

Whatever the immediate reason, Saklatvala sailed for India at the end of 
December 1926, arriving in January 1927. The rapturous welcome he received 
from multitudes of the Indian people must have done much to assuage his 
recent frustrations in the UK; for the three-month tour could only be 
described as a great personal triumph for him, and of infinite benefit to the 
communist movement. 


358 



CHAPTER 18 


A Return to India 

Tour of India in 1927 and correspondence with Mohandas 
Gandhi. Parsi ceremony for the children incurs disapproval 
of the Communist Party. Passport endorsed, preventing 
further visits to India. Foundation of the League Against 
Imperialism. Second visit to the Soviet Union, 1927. 


The following message, printed on cloth, was presented to Saklatvala at a 
meeting held in Bombay on 24th January 1927: 

To Shapurji Saklatvala 
Dear Brother, 

Bombay, the City of your Birth, welcomes you with all her heart. It has 
been Bombay’s pride and privilege, that all three Indians elected to the 
British Parliament, have been her own sons: Dadabhai Naoroji, 
Mancherjee Bhownagree and Shapurji Saklatvala. 

Brother, though you were born in wealthy surroundings, you have been 
from your very youth a true Friend of the Poor, the Suffering and the 
Sorrowing. Whether in India, or in Europe, you have felt and fought for 
the Suppressed and the Oppressed— often so singly, and always nobly. 
Brother, you are essentially a Citizen of the World. Castes and Creeds, 
Colour and Sex, Continents and Countries, do not affect you at all. To 
you, Humanity is One Great Family of the Divine Father; and you strive 
and struggle and suffer to bring mankind together, in loving links of 
Unity, Amity and Harmony. 

To that noble goal, our great Gandhiji, Rabindranath Tagore, Jagdish 
Chandra Bose and T.L.Vaswani are all labouring with such love and 
light; and may you keep that Torch always ablaze abroad. 

Brother, as a Friend of the Poor; as a fearless fighter for the Oppressed; 
as a Lover of Liberty and Freedom for all; and as an untiring Worker 
and Fighter for Fraternity, Equality and Peace in the World, dear 
brother, we greet you, we salute you, and we wish you a long and 


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luminous life, dedicated to the service of our dear Country and of the 
suffering Humanity at large. Amen! 

We remain, Dear Brother, Your Dear Friends and Admirers, 
Countrymen and Comrades. 

While Saklatvala was still aboard SS Razmak sailing towards India, the 
Evening Star in London reported that “he was recently granted a Passport 
after considerable delay, which resulted in a written protest to the Prime 
Minister.” 

On 15th January 1927, the Bombay Chronicle, describing Saklatvala as “one of 
the finest orators, one of the most magnetic personalities, and one of the most 
consistent of India’s sons,” also reported the delay in the issuing of 
Saklatvala’s passport for India, which had only been granted after consultation 
with the government of India: “...It rendered impossible any pre-arrangement 
of meetings... So Mr Saklatvala goes to India unheralded and without any 
suspicion of advance agent or stage manager.” 

The Bombay Chronicle of 15th January 1927 reported, under the eye-catching 
headline ‘I Come to Serve’: 

“We publish below the following special message written by Mr Shapurji 
Saklatvala in response to a cable sent by us to him. It was handed over 
by him to our representative who was the first to see him on board. At 
the request of Mr Saklatvala, a copy of this message has been sent to all 
Indian papers. 

“‘Yes, I have at last come to Bombay and to my mother, India, from the 
mother-country of my children.’ He said he was coming after a gap of 13 
years. ‘That period of 13 years, first with the Great War and then with 
the Workers’ Revolution in Russia, has made history for almost 130 
years for mankind... The war had many aims, some declared ones and 
some concealed ones. However, it is the results that have to be reckoned 
with. 

“Nations and even sections of nations are divided up, they are asked to 
live in water-tight compartments politically and commercially. They are 
all to develop nationalist patriotism based upon suspicion and dread of 
their neighbour. The doctrine of implicit obedience to a strong 
governing class being the only safety for the masses is being preached 
openly... The powerful victor states are seeking more power and are 


360 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


extending their influence over the newly created smaller states and 
nationalities... 

“‘On the other hand the Russian revolution has made and still 
perseveres in another call. It wants to break down old barriers of 
nationality and creed. It calls upon the masses to realise that they are 
never really safe unless they govern themselves and their state from the 
workshop, or the farmyard and field upwards. It proclaims for 
international unity based on mutual economic safety in place of 
influence and domination of one nationality over another... 

‘“When I come to India in this condition of the world, I realise I shall 
meet with a changed atmosphere, changed mentalities, and even altered 
personalities. There will be much for me to see, to learn, and to ponder 
over, and there will be quite a lot for me to impart out of my political 
experiences and observations... I come to serve and to serve with 
devotion, but not merely with emotion; I want to make my service of as 
much practical value and usefulness to my homeland as one humanly 
can, but for that I want the help, the good will and the trust of everyone 
who is working in the cause of India. I shall need every ounce of 
guidance, of good temper, of comradeship in war or peace. 

“‘Therefore I appeal to the Indian press to broadcast my humble 
request. I desire to quarrel with, or to object to, nobody... I desire to 
work out a harmonious, pleasing and serviceable design to the pattern 
of my daily experience of the struggle of man, the sorrows of woman, 
and the suffering of children. There has to be honest disagreement 
without disagreeableness, there must be severe and outright analytical 
criticisms of policies without malice... 

“‘Majorities do not overwhelm me, minorities, and small minorities, do 
not dishearten me or bring weariness on my brow. I face my issues 
calmly and I bear my Party’s standard singly in the British Parliament of 
615 members. So I am trained not to value opinions by counting noses... 
“‘I am a believer in the human heart, and I have come directly to speak 
to it; I am a believer in the masses, in the poor, in the worker, in the 
peasant, and so, till I have met them, and till they have permitted me to 
speak to them, I shall say ‘au revoir’ to the pen and the printed word. I 
shall of course come back to you in my effort to bring about proletarian 


361 



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unity from Battersea to Bombay and beyond. 

“‘And now, my greetings to you all, and my salutations to the memory of 
Shradhanand. Sh. Saklatvala.’” 

It was reported in the press that hundreds of admirers assembled on Ballard 
Pier long before the boat was sighted. The article goes on to say: 

“As soon as the steamer touched the wharf, representatives of the press 
and various organisations rushed on board to take precedence in 
honouring the great man. Heaps of garlands and bouquets were 
showered on him... Mr Saklatvala was all in smiles while the imposing 
ceremony of the reception was going on 

“The curious thing about the whole function was that Mr Saklatvala 
refused to be garlanded. He smilingly remarked that he, as only an 
unknown soldier in the field did not deserve the unique honour that was 
done to him. He collected all the garlands on his arms and intimated his 
desire of making an offering of them on the grave of the Late Lokmanya 
Tilak, the ‘known soldier’ as he said, who really deserved, even in his 
death, all the honour which India could accord to her patriot sons... 

“On landing on the wharf, Mr Saklatvala was immediately surrounded 
by enthusiastic crowds... it took almost half an hour for his car to bugle 
its way through the throng... Followed by many of his friends, Mr 
Saklatvala arrived at Chowpati and in profound reverence, he placed all 
the garlands and bouquets offered to him on the little stone memorial 
erected on the beach in memory of the Late Lokmanya...” 

[Editor’s note: Bal Keshav Gangadhar Tilak (1856 - 1920) was an early leader 
of the Indian Independence Movement; his slogan “Swaraj (self-rule) is my 
birthright, and I shall have it!” remains well-known in India]. 

It is sadly interesting to note that Saklatvala was not invited to stay with his 
younger brother, Sorab, who, presumably would have found the public 
expression of his older sibling’s political beliefs an embarrassment in the 
capitalist circles in which he worked and socialised. Saklatvala was made 
welcome and stayed with one of his cousins, Jamsetji Saklatvala. This slight 
from his younger brother must have hurt my father deeply but, so far as I 
know, he never mentioned his disappointment to anyone, not even to my 
mother. (This same brother made me most welcome in his home after my 
father’s death and showed me great affection, generosity and kindness; I could 


362 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


not help silently remembering the hurt he had inflicted on Father; but the 
good manners required of a guest, and the deference due from a niece to an 
uncle forced me to conceal my latent anger). 

While Saklatvala was still on the high seas, the Sunday Worker of 2nd January 
1927 wrote: 

“Unlike the tired Leader of the Labour Party, Shapurji Saklatvala is not 
going abroad merely to bask in the sun. He says he is going to work for 
the brotherhood of Indian and British workers. He will certainly have a 
very energetic try. His record here in England is warrant of that. I have 
his diary of engagements for the past year before me as I write, and 
would offer a bet that Sak’s list of meetings addressed would beat that of 
any other propagandist in Britain. [This in spite of the cancellation of 
meetings under the emergency powers and the time spent in prison!] 
“Bad health, including a very ‘dicky’ heart, does not deter Sak for a 
moment. On one page of his diary you may see entries showing that on 
two successive days he spoke at four meetings in Northumberland and 
Durham and two in his own constituency of Battersea. That means that 
during the intervening night he travelled South by train, sleeping as he 
always does, wrapped in his overcoat, even on the floor of the corridor 
in a crowded train— certainly never in a first class sleeper— but Sak did 
not say to the pressmen in Marseilles, ‘I am tired and need a rest.’” 
Saklatvala wrote to the Daily Herald from India: 

“I am not going on any idle holiday. I am going to make another great 
effort from the Indian end to pull the two working-class brotherhoods 
together. Every ounce of goodwill and encouragement from individuals 
and organisations of all types in the British Labour Movement is 
needed, and I appeal to you all to send me a word of support, a voice of 
encouraging good cheer for the poor, down-trodden Indian workers 
from every trade union and socialist branch...” 

Such a crowded schedule was to be maintained and even increased during 
Saklatvala’s three month tour of India. On the same day on which he arrived, 
Friday 14th January, he addressed a meeting organised by the Trade Union 
Provincial Committee in the afternoon, and in the evening addressed a 
crowded meeting of textile workers. The following day he addressed a huge 
meeting and public reception in the Sir Cawasji Jehangir Hall, where, 


363 



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according to press reports: 

“[Saklatvala] spoke for an hour and a half and his whole speech was 
permeated with humour, sarcasm and wit, which kept the audience 
roaring with laughter all the time. At the end he was surrounded by a 
surging crowd that virtually smothered him with their congratulations 
and cheers.” 

Saklatvala travelled all over India and was rapturously received by audiences 
numbering thousands wherever he went. The Indian newspapers reported all 
his speeches and triumphs. 

After only a few days, the Bombay Chronicle wrote of Saklatvala: 

“Whether he is at a tea-party or a reception, a Labour meeting or a 
public demonstration of thousands, he avails himself of every 
opportunity to drill his fresh and dynamic views into the hearts of his 
audience with his magnificent oratory, of which, indeed, there is no 
parallel in India today. Wherever he goes he enlivens the atmosphere 
and electrifies his hearers.” 

He addressed big Muslim rallies (over 6,000 attended a meeting addressed by 
him in Bombay) and, while he advised them that the Muslims of the world 
should be united and should call a world conference every year, he also 
stressed the need for all peoples in India, both Hindu and Muslim, to unite as 
Indians and to live harmoniously together. As a Parsi and being neither Hindu 
nor Muslim, he was in a strong position to call for such unity. He addressed 
meetings in Hindi, Gujarati and English and was equally eloquent in all three 
languages. 

A few days after his arrival he visited Navsari, his birthplace, and the freedom 
of the municipality was conferred upon him in a moving ceremony. In 
expressing his thanks, Saklatvala said that a life of simplicity was with him a 
religion and it was not ordained for him to receive honours. He said he was 
proud to be a citizen of Navsari that had given to India a Dadabhai Naoroji 
and a Tata. After the ceremony he went to the Lunsieni Maidan and addressed 
a huge gathering of thousands there. On his arrival in Navsari he had once 
again been presented with garlands and bouquets; he went, before attending 
any public meetings, to call on his Aunt, Mrs Bamji (his mother’s sister) and 
presented her with all the garlands and flowers as a token of his respect and 
affection. 


364 



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This is but one instance of the profound family feeling that Father always had, 
even for those members of the family whose conduct in private or public 
affairs ran contrary to his own political or even moral convictions. He was, 
after all, the only socialist in a clan of highly successful capitalists, but he loved 
the clan nevertheless; he loved the uncle who, in his eyes, had wronged his 
father. While he deplored the concepts of the family business, he still loved the 
individual members of the family as his kin— these were bonds which nothing 
could sever. 

About three miles from Navsari, in a small village named Eru, a patriotic 
young man, Mr Nathubhai, was conducting a night school for children of the 
depressed classes. Saklatvala asked to see it and was taken there at 10pm. 
There he found 43 boys and 30 girls studying together. He learned from them 
that they earned one or two annas a day and depended upon philanthropic 
citizens for slates and books. 

The Bombay Chronicle reported: 

“Full of that milk of human kindness which distinguishes him he 
chatted with the boys and advised them to become thoroughly educated. 
He specially exhorted the girls to study and learn to be worthy mothers 
and to bring up a race of patriots with a burning love for humanity. He 
told them all that in education lay their salvation— moral, material and 
mental. He then advised them to teach children when they grew up just 
as their teacher was teaching them without expectation of material 
reward but out of love of service to humanity.” 

Saklatvala’s relationship with the Indian National Congress was a complicated 
one. He fully upheld their objective of freedom for India, but did not agree 
with their methods of obtaining it. And, of course, he disagreed profoundly 
with Gandhiji on many issues. The two men met during Saklatvala’s visit. They 
also exchanged letters, which were published by the Communist Party in 
December 1927. 

Saklatvala fired the first salvo on March 8th, writing from Bombay: 

“Dear Comrade Gandhi, We are both erratic enough to permit each 
other to be rude in order to freely express oneself correctly, instead of 
getting lost in artificiality of phraseology... Let us understand, openly, 
whether the ‘Charka’ movement is or is not an attack upon machinery, 
upon physical sciences, upon material progress. If it is so, then it is a 


365 



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most damaging disservice to our country and must be stopped. If it is 
not so, then your ardent followers ought not to be allowed to believe 
that it is so... The methods adopted in other countries of organising 
labour and peasantry and guiding and leading the workers in factories 
or farms to obtain their rights, have produced far more benevolent and 
efficient results in human life than the two-annas-a-day charka 
movement will ever do... 

“Now, where do we stand with regard to the primary object of the 
charka movement and its position today? Are you shifting your limit of 
2 years to 4 or to 20 or to 200 years? Do you suggest that a rise of 2 
annas a day say of the whole population is a process which is going to 
drive the British out of this country?... Why do you persevere in hand- 
spinning with such superstitious adherence, and why not introduce 
alongside of it other more profitable handicrafts...? You are not teaching 
people to wear more clothes than before, your own example would 
rather lead them to wear less. At the same time you are teaching more 
people to produce clothes... 

“The acuteness with which the class war operates upon the wage- 
earners of India is more than in most of the advanced European 
countries, where, thanks to the organisation of labour, several of the 
cruelties of class war are being moved. Just look at the palatial houses of 
any mill-owner of Bombay, Ahmedabad, Nagpur or Calcutta and look at 
the disgraceful and diabolical one-room tenements of the workers, 
devoid of all furniture, appointments at any embellishments. Such acute 
difference between dwelling conditions of the rich and the poor does not 
exist in Great Britain, America or any part of Europe where labour is 
organised... 

“That is not all. The class war in India is murderous and more cruelly 
murderous because it is infanticidal... You will find that the mortality of 
infants under 12 months of age among the rich would be about 90 per 
1000, whereas the infantile mortality in the municipal wards where the 
factory workers live would be from 600 to even 800 per 1000. Such a 
damnable attack upon human life is unknown in those countries where 
the working classes are organised. 

“To defend such a position is criminal, but for anybody to go even 


366 



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further and to throw dust in the eyes of the world that class war is not 
operating acutely in India is inhuman and monstrous, and I have always 
felt that through your misguided sentimentality, you have preferred to 
be one of them. Class war is there and will continue to be there until any 
successful scheme of communism abolishes it. But in the meantime, not 
to struggle against its evil effects from day to day is a doctrine which 
cannot appeal to any genuine humanitarian. 

“...You emphatically argued that the charka movement was making 
organisation. I emphatically deny it... Then we come to the 
psychological value of the movement. This WAS great. It BEGAN well... 
But why create a psychology if you do not intend to mobilise the spirit so 
created...? 

“Whatever may be the feelings of some of your admirers, I hope you and 
I are both agreed that we are both very common and ordinary persons... 
If your purpose is to give your share in the national and political work, 
your approach to the people should be on terms of absolute equality and 
your task must be to inspire confidence in them. 

“From this point of view you must stop allowing people to address you 
as a Mahatma. I have heard from your many friends that you have never 
wished the word to be used... You can easily refuse to receive letters so 
addressed, and you can easily refuse to attend functions where you are 
advertised with this appellation. You have only to express your wish 
publicly instead of whispering about it to a few friends and the thing 
would be done... 

“You should rigorously stop crowds and processions of human beings, 
specially poor women and little children, passing you with folded hands 
and downcast eyes. Once you create this abject submission of man to 
man, no wonder that you should yourself despair of obtaining civil 
disobedience from your followers... 

“Then there is one thing that I witnessed at Yeotmal which has hurt me 
greatly... Your work regarding the removal of untouchability is grand in 
its aspiration, and is not bad in its success as it is generally carried on. 
However, I strongly object to your permitting my countrymen and 
countrywomen to touch your feet and put their fingers in their eyes. 
Such touchability appears to be more damnable than untouchability, 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


and I would sooner wish that two persons did not touch each other than 
that any one human being should be touched by another in the way in 
which you were touched. 

“The depressed classes were subject to a sort of general disability, but 
this new phase of a man of the depressed class worshipping the feet of 
his deliverer is a more real individual depression and degradation of life, 
and however much you misunderstand me, I must call upon you to stop 
this nonsense... You are ruining the mentality and the psychology of 
these villagers for another generation or two... Politically this career of 
yours is ruinous, and from a humanitarian point of view its 
degenerating influence appears to me to be a moral plague... 

“I have put down my candid thoughts in the above paragraphs not with 
a view to disburden my soul of personal grievance... What I am really 
attempting to do is to disburden your mind of a lot of confusion and 
contradiction and to demand from you, in the name of all sufferers not 
merely that you stop adding to their sufferings but that you come 
forward and live with us as a brother with brothers, and work with us in 
a manner and form in which we all consider your service to be most 
valuable and you to be most fitted... 

“What I want of you is that you be a good old Gandhi, put on an 
ordinary pair of khaddar trousers and coat and come out and work with 
us in the ordinary way. Come and organise with us... our workers, our 
peasants, our youths, not with a metaphysical sentimentality but with a 
set purpose, a clear-cut and well-defined object and by methods such as 
by experience are making success for all human beings. 

“Instead of developing the vanity of making under-clothing or over- 
clothing as a primary object of administration, as an ordinary rough- 
and-tumble man, making your food and clothing secondary and 
unimportant items that should not require any special thought, you 
would still be able to undo great mistakes of the past, to make up for the 
damage done to India and other Asiatic countries, and be one of the 
successful workers for India as other successful leaders have actually 
worked for their country... 

“Therefore, before I go, I should like you to get up one morning as from 
a dream and to say, ‘Yes,’ and many of us can soon be put together in a 


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good team, and set about putting an end to so many deplorable 
conditions of life in India, about which none of us has any doubt. 

“I remain, Yours fraternally, Shapurji Saklatvala” 

[Editor’s note: the charka was a spinning wheel for producing khadi 
(homespun cloth) which Gandhi extolled as a symbolic and practical means of 
boycotting British-made textiles and furthering the economic independence of 
the poor]. 

Gandhi’s reply was published as an open letter in the Bombay Daily Mail of 
March 17th (he explained in a later letter that he did not at the time have an 
address to which he could send a personal reply— though I would have thought 
that a man of reasonable resourcefulness would have been able to find one). 
Not surprisingly, he did not get up one morning as from a dream and say ‘yes.’ 
Gandhi wrote: 

“‘Comrade’ Saklatvala [I think the fact that he puts this form of address 
in inverted commas suggests that he preferred his normal title of 
Mahatma to the unaccustomed one of Comrade, used by Saklatvala] is 
dreadfully in ernest. His sincerity is transparent. His sacrifices are great. 
His passion for the poor is unquestioned. I have therefore given his 
fervent, open appeal to me that close attention which that of a sincere 
patriot and humanitarian must command. But in spite of all my desire 
to say ‘yes’ to his appeal, I must say ‘no’ if I am to return sincerity for 
sincerity...” 

The two men had further correspondence dealing mainly with Gandhiji’s 
organisation of the workers of Ahmedabad, which he kept outside the All India 
Trade Union Congress. Needless to say, neither of them ever came any closer 
to agreement on their disparate methods of bettering the lot of the Indian 
people. 

Saklatvala knew that for him openly to criticise a man revered by millions as a 
Mahatma was inviting his own unpopularity; but, on the whole, he was 
admired for his candour even by Gandhi’s ardent followers and earned the 
approbation of many who, like himself, abhorred the ‘holy man’s’ approach to 
matters mundane. Neither their exchange of letters nor their personal meeting 
brought them any nearer to agreement. Saklatvala continued to believe that 
Gandhi’s concept of the struggle for freedom was, in fact, helping to maintain 
the British grip of the country— he felt he was playing into the hands of the 


369 



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British. 

When the two men met and discussed their differences face-to-face in 
Yeotmal, there was no rapprochement, and although before their talks there 
had been much speculation and interest shown by the press, neither of them 
said much about their meeting. Saklatvala was, no doubt, extremely 
disappointed, because he seems always to have hoped that Gandhi would put 
his undoubted powers of leadership into a united effort and that he would 
promote a movement more practical than the promotion of spinning. It was 
unrealistically optimistic ever to envisage being able to persuade Gandhi to his 
way of approaching the problem of imperialism. 

How distressed he would have been to see that the policies of the Indian 
National Congress, combined with those of the British Raj and the Muslim 
League, ended in the disintegration of the Indian nation, which has been so 
disastrously fragmented both physically and emotionally. (Indeed, it 
sometimes seems as if every man would like to set up a national frontier 
around his own backyard.) How despairing he would have been to see, more 
than forty years after the departure of the British, the persistence of poverty 
and illiteracy and an ever- widening gulf between the various religious factions, 
still savagely spilling each other’s blood in their so-called service of God. 

We will never know if the communist creed as recommended by Saklatvala 
would have brought greater or lesser happiness, but certainly the policies 
which he deplored have not brought the prosperity and peace that national 
liberation should have bestowed upon the people. But the wealthy are born 
with their hands in the pockets of the poor, and will never allow them to 
prosper; and man’s greed will outlast any man’s creed. Though I suppose it is 
better that the plunderers are now at least Indian plunderers— there might be 
some consolation in that for the down-trodden drudges of free India. 
Experience has taught us, too, that so-called communist states provide all too 
fertile a soil in which tyranny and torture can flourish— so there is certainly no 
real grounds for believing that the introduction of a distorted communism into 
India would have produced anything better. Surely, Christ did not envisage 
that his advocacy of brotherly love would result in the Inquisition and the 
burning at the stake of one human being by another; and neither did Marx 
envisage the possibility of a Stalin rising in a society following his version of 
brotherly love; but man’s cruelty is not so easily conquered— it is, like a weed, 


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an indomitable survivor. 

While Saklatvala was in India, the seventh annual session of the All India 
Trade Union Congress took place in Delhi on March 12th and 13th. Saklatvala 
had, of course, been closely associated with the movement even before its 
inception and he was, as a visitor, invited to address the Congress. There were 
already deep divisions and dissentions within the trade union movement, and 
it was reported in the press that the meeting was attended largely by the right 
wing of the movement. The Bombay Chronicle reported that the only fighting 
speech was made by Comrade Saklatvala. 

In a letter to the editor of the Bombay Chronicle, Saklatvala put forward his 
proposals for the education of the peasants and agricultural workers in the 
villages in India. He wrote: 

“Thousands of students responded to the call of the Congress in 1921... 
with determination and devotion to become life-long servants of our 
dear Motherland. This call of the Congress was, indeed, the call of 
Comrade Gandhi endorsed and accepted by Congress. 

“I was at that time yearning to come to India to take my share of the 
work, but my financial and other circumstances did not permit. I felt 
that the call was a good one, and the inspiration underlying it was a 
noble one, but the programme ahead of it was a vacant one. 

“The great need of our country is to organise the peasants as well as the 
industrial workers, to inspire them with a confidence and a belief in 
themselves, and to arouse a political and class consciousness within 
them, so that they may be able to free themselves from their burdens 
instead of being victims to them under mis-belief of religious or civic 
virtues. This task cannot be performed by book education, or by 
thumping oratory of a travelling agitator... 

“I wanted all our educated and devoted nationalist students to be 
mobilised into an organisation, galvanised by a nationalist fervour, and 
at the same time tempered with a personal humility. I want them even 
now in a methodical and in an organised manner to enter agricultural 
villages, factories, mines, dockyards, railway yards, and every place of 
human activity, as bona fide workers within those activities. 

“I do not want them to go as external and superior preachers or welfare 
workers or advisers, but I want them to take their place with our 


37i 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


oppressed classes as one of them on terms of equality, doing the same 
hard and unpleasant work, eking out the same precarious existence, and 
suffering the same indignities and degradation of human life and 
human rights. Then they should under the guidance of a central 
organisation for all India, lead the peasants and the ignorant workers 
onto a path of self-assertion, and of defence against the might of the 
privileged class, and then of demands for the ultimate rights of their 
own class. 

“India has about 6 lakhs of villages [i.e. 600,000], and about 20,000 
places of modern industrial organisations. A band of 70,000 young 
educated men and 30,000 young educated women, whom Comrade 
Gandhi’s inspiring call makes available, could launch out on a gigantic 
programme of an Indian revival and produce results within 12 months... 
“And now my last word. Can we not give up the garlands and the 
bouquets which in their nature and by traditional usage are an offering? 
How I wish that before I go, we offer to our guests little red flags to be 
worn as button-holes to serve as an emblem of equality and service. Let 
the red flag as a ground work of international brotherhood bear upon it 
different emblems like the Charka, or the Hindu Trident (Trishul) or the 
Moslem Crescent, or even the royal crown when the Liberals and 
moderates organise their meetings, but let us fall in a march with the 
world that is seeking for justice, equality, and national and international 
unity, or all put in one [word] ‘Bolshevism’.” 

During his visit, the British government was sending Indian troops to fight 
their battles in China and opposition to this was another point of common 
agreement between Saklatvala and Indian Congress leaders. When Saklatvala 
went earlier than had been expected to Delhi, it was largely to discuss this 
issue with Indian leaders. 

On 28th January, a mass meeting of over 5000 was convened in the Queens 
Gardens in Delhi to protest against the use of Indian troops in China. Pandit 
Motilal Nehru was in the chair and introduced Saklatvala to the assembly, and 
when Saklatvala rose to speak he was given an enthusiastic ovation. He said 
the meeting was called in order to tell the people of China that Indian forces 
were sent to China against the will of the Indian people and despite the strong 
disapproval of the Indian nation, which was, however, powerless to prevent it. 


372 



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In moving a resolution expressing the sympathy of the citizens of Delhi with 
the Chinese people, Mr Iyengar asked why the blood of Indians should be shed 
for depriving the freedom of China, which was not an enemy of India. 

He said, “It is not because India is near to China that Indian troops are being 
sent, but because India is a subject country. In other countries, the opinion of 
the people was taken before sending their troops out. In India they were 
debarred from even expressing their opinion.” 

Maulana Mahomed Ali, winding up the debate, said he would lay himself on 
the rails to stop a train laden with Indian troops for China, and he advised 
others to do the same. 

Early in February, after his visit to Nagpur, Saklatvala went to Karachi, where 
a ceremonial welcome awaited him and a procession formed at the railway 
station and accompanied him through beflagged streets. A public meeting, 
attended by several thousand people, was packed to such an extent that some 
doors and windows were damaged. The following morning Saklatvala went to 
the Labour headquarters; in the afternoon he held a press conference; at 5pm 
he gave a talk to a gathering of political leaders of varying shades of opinion; 
then at 6.15pm, under the auspices of the Railway Union, he gave another 
lecture; later on the same evening he addressed a vast crowd on the Idgah 
Maidan, decrying that the lives of Indian labourers were no better than the 
lives of beasts. 

Thus he worked every day during this exhausting but no doubt exhilarating 
tour of his country, with a vigour undiminished by the heat and the size of the 
meetings he was constantly addressing. 

A mass meeting was held in Congress House, primarily to protest against 
sending Indian troops to fight the Chinese, with whom, it was stressed, the 
people of India had no quarrel and certainly no cause for war. As always, 
Saklatvala was greeted with a hearty ovation. It was reported that “his speech 
was full of wit which threw his audience into roars of laughter while his cogent 
arguments transposed them into serious and thoughtful mood.” He said 
events had moved so swiftly in China that they could not hold too many 
meetings to protest strongly against what was going on: 

“Chinamen do not demand Chinese judges and magistrates in Great 
Britain to protect Chinamen’s interests. China does not send battalions 
to Liverpool where Chinamen abound to protect them, or to London 


373 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


where Chinamen sell their goods, (laughter) ...India should therefore 
show to the world the unconstitutional method adopted by Britain in 
sending Indian troops to China against the wishes of the Indian people... 
It was a great abuse of power, and showed that Britain was a danger to 
the world...” 

It had been claimed that the intentions of the British were essentially peaceful 
and that they only wanted the right to trade in China. Saklatvala contended 
that America sold goods in India, but they did not want to send their Viceroy 
to India. Japan sold more goods in India than India wanted, but they did not 
send their Commander-in-Chief. Chinamen were sending goods to England, 
but they did not send Chinese battalions. But to send troops to sell goods was 
characteristic of the British government— he did not mean the British nation 
but the British government. The methods of selling goods by the British were 
so unrighteous that they needed gunboats to sell their goods, (laughter) 

He asked, “Is not Great Britain selling goods in France, or Italy or America? 
Why does she not send her troops to those countries also to protect her 
merchants?” (laughter) India must demand most emphatically the return of 
Indian troops from China. India, he claimed, had been trading with China long 
before the British knew how to trade with that country; the Chinese would 
treat Indian merchants as brothers, while the British would not allow Indian 
merchants into their white men’s clubs and gymkhanas. 

Having dealt with the question of Indian troops in China, Saklatvala addressed 
the meeting on more general social and political problems and explained, as 
he explained at all his meetings, the principles of communism. 

Similar meetings were held in all the major cities, and Saklatvala was received 
wherever he went with great affection and acclaim; it was, I think, probably 
the most emotionally demanding and rewarding period of his whole political 
life. As always he travelled extensively and tirelessly, giving meetings that 
sometimes did not start until after to at night because he was speaking in so 
many different places. The tour went on until April 9th. 

On the eve of his departure, at a farewell meeting in Bombay, Dr Deshmukh in 
the chair said: 

“The other day, the Parsi community of Bombay honoured him as their 
representative [cheers]. I say we citizens of Bombay look upon him as 
the pride of the city, [applause] All India will be proud to claim him as 


374 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


their best son and even the whole world will do him honour as an 
international hero, [continued applause] I hope it will not be long before 
Comrade Saklatvala again sets his foot on Indian soil.” 

Amid deafening applause Saklatvala rose to reply and allowed himself a rare 
expression of personal feeling. He said,: 

There are certain moments in a man’s life, which are more difficult than the 
normal ones. These are the moments when emotion is more overpowering 
than reason. At this moment, I also do feel a little overwhelmed, not with the 
thought that you have met with rejoicings that at last I am going back [in spite 
of the hurt of his impending departure, he could not resist a joke], but with the 
thought that you have met to encourage and assure me that I am of you, I am 
one of you and I shall ever remain inseparably with you... I feel confidence, not 
the confidence of a blustering politician but the confidence of a hopeful 
brother...” 

In answer to a question about the murder of Swami Shradhandji, he said he 
had written to Professor Indra, the late Swami’s son, asking him to send a 
petition to the High Court asking pardon for the murderer of Swamiji. He said: 
“India should be the first country in the world where we should abolish 
that savage system of capital punishment. I don’t believe in hanging and 
execution. The system of execution is, according to me, responsible for 
the system of murder. I don’t believe that execution is either sensible, 
scientific, nor a deterrent.” 

Concluding, Saklatvala said, “Though I am leaving you, I do not feel like 
leaving.” He was then garlanded, amidst what the papers described as “sky- 
rending applause.” 

On 9th April 1927, surrounded by throngs of emotionally charged admirers, 
Saklatvala sailed from the shores of India for the last time, away from the land 
of his fathers, from which he was to be forever exiled by the democratic 
government of his children’s motherland. Had he known at that poignant 
moment that the British government was never again to allow him to return to 
the land of his birth, his leave-taking would have been more heartrending still. 
But I will speak of that later. 

During his many visits to Bombay, he had naturally spent as much time as his 
overcrowded schedule would allow with his sister. She had been very upset to 
learn that none of Shapurji’s five children had been initiated into the Parsi 


375 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


faith. She, as all the rest of the family, were still ardent and strict followers of 
the Zoroastrian religion. She persuaded him that, whatever his personal 
beliefs, he did not have the right to withhold from his children their 
participation in the religion of their forefathers. 

So one of the first things he did on his return to London was to arrange for the 
Parsi ceremony of a Navjote to be performed on all of us. (It was to be only the 
third time this ceremony had been performed in England, the first time being 
only the year before, on the son of one of Father’s close friends). Fresh 
pomegranate leaves were required for some of the ritual and these were 
generously supplied by Kew Gardens, to whom my father, resourceful as ever, 
applied for help. He wrote down all the prayers in Roman script and 
proceeded to teach us every morning; we were not released to go to school 
until we had learnt the day’s quota by heart— and there were therefore some 
very fraught and tearful mornings, for to be late for school was unthinkable. 
For my part, the fear of unpunctuality put me in such a panic that the learning 
of the unfamiliar words became a nightmare, but Father was relentless, stern 
and unyielding. We all lined up at the bottom of his bed, and were only 
allowed to depart as each one of us recited the required portion of our 
devotions. Being the youngest (and, I fear, the most stupid), I was always the 
last to leave, and standing there in solitude, watching a clock as relentless as 
Father, was enough to add to my natural nervousness. But eventually the task 
was done and we were all word perfect. 

Three priests were to officiate at the two ceremonies; one for my sister and 
myself, and one for my three brothers. But we were taken through the prayers 
and taught the significance and details of the ceremony by a most kindly and 
gentle priest who became a close friend to us all, R.R. Desai. It was during this 
period of preparation that Mr Desai and his house-keeper, Mrs Neal, were 
invited to dinner. Mother had the electric oven and all the burners going full 
blast, cooking an elaborate meal. Father, as usual when expecting guests, had 
put on all the lights in the house and switched on the electric radiators. 

This all proved too much for the immature electric system and, while we were 
entertaining this apostle of light, the whole house was suddenly plunged into 
darkness, the cooker and the radiators gave up the struggle, and the evening 
was threatened with disaster. But in those days, help was quickly at hand, and 
a telephone call to the electric company brought immediate succour; the 


376 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


service was restored in time to finish the cooking, a concave and soggy cake 
being the only lasting victim of the hiatus in supply. 

Perhaps the disaster of the lights that evening should have warned Father of 
impending doom. Our ceremonies were to be held in Caxton Hall, 
Westminster, on 22nd July before a large audience and with many pressmen 
present. 

Father was to be hauled over the coals by the Communist Party for 
participating in a religious ceremony, contrary to the tenets of communism. 
Why had he not asked their permission first, they demanded. He told them 
frankly that he knew they would refuse permission, that he had certain family 
obligations which had to be met and that he had therefore gone ahead with 
this private and family ceremony and only told them about it when it was too 
late to stop it. It had never been presented to us as a religious undertaking. 
Father made it plain that he believed neither in prayer nor in any barrier- 
building, religious ceremonial, but he said Ali Fui (his sister) would be very 
unhappy if we did not have it, that it did us no harm and made her happy; it 
was in that spirit that the service was conducted. But I don’t think the die- 
hards of the Communist Party ever forgave him. 

At the time of the offending ceremony, Saklatvala was recuperating after an 
operation for a severe and persistent throat infection, no doubt due to the 
strain and over-exertion of the Indian tour; he was to endure failing health for 
much of the rest of the year. The operation was performed in a nursing home 
very close to our house by an eminent Hindu surgeon, K.M. Pardhy. Father 
had been having treatment there for some time after his return from India. 
The matron and nurses were all very fond of Father and were always most 
kind to him and to all of us. They treated both my sister and myself during our 
childhood. (And when Father had his fatal heart attack in 1936, it was Matron 
who was first on the scene.) 

Dr Fram Gotla, our family doctor and a lifelong friend of Father, issued a 
statement to the press saying, “Indeed, you can tell him and his friends that he 
sacrificed his health for his work and that he must moderate his programme of 
toil, for only by reasonable care will he keep the health he as regained.” 
Photographs of Father at the Navjote ceremony show him with his neck 
bandaged, and on photographs taken during the whole of this period, he 
appears thinner and very drawn and obviously ill. Indeed, he himself did not 


377 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


actually participate in the ceremony at all, but remained seated in an armchair 
throughout, due to his convalescent state. 

Nonetheless, Saklatvala was to be as active as ever during this period. On May 
Day 1927 he and Harry Pollitt addressed a mass meeting in Hyde Park, 
followed by another in the Albert Hall in the evening; on 12th June he, Pollitt 
and other Communist leaders were at a rally in Trafalgar Square. On 19th 
June he addressed a crowd of 1200 people in Crumlin, where he was 
accompanied by my mother (she did go with him from time to time, but I 
think she went with him on this occasion because he was not well enough to 
make such a journey on his own). But throughout his indisposition he only 
missed one week of House of Commons debates, when he also had to cancel all 
his public engagements; this was announced in the press on 8th July. 

In spite of the little lapse from grace over our Navjote, the Communist Party of 
Great Britain at its annual conference (held in another Caxton Hall, in Salford, 
Lancashire) showed its appreciation of the great contribution Saklatvala had 
made to the work of the party during his Indian visit: 

“Comrade Saklatvala toured India on behalf of the Party during the first 
months of the year, getting a magnificent reception everywhere, and 
advocating in particular that the National Movement should adopt a 
programme of demands for the workers and peasants. His controversy 
with M.K. Gandhi over the question of the independent class 
organisation for the workers received wide publicity. His visit 
undoubtedly did much to stimulate the movement for an All India 
Workers’ and Peasants’ Party, a highly important field for Indian 
Communists...” 

Alas, the communists were not the only body politic to appreciate the 
importance of Saklatvala’s impact on the jewel in the imperialist crown. On 
5th September 1927 it was announced that the government had cancelled the 
endorsement for India on Saklatvala’s passport. Of course, permission for him 
to go to India in 1926 had been granted only after considerable delay and with 
great reluctance. 

The effects of his travels in India must have caused the Secretary of State for 
India to wish that his journey had never been sanctioned. It so happened that 
the Viceroy, accompanied by Earl Winterton, went on a tour of Indian cities 
during the period of Saklatvala’s visit; and the citizens of some of the most 


378 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


important centres turned out in their thousands to welcome Saklatvala, while 
they frequently boycotted any civic welcome accorded to the Viceroy. This 
must indeed have caused those eminent personages not a little chagrin. One 
might even venture to think that a certain element of pique might have 
entered into their decision to prevent Saklatvala from repeating his triumph 
ever again. 

Of recent years we have heard a great deal of criticism of various communist 
regimes, for their disregard of human rights in refusing to allow their 
countrymen to leave their homeland to journey to distant lands with which 
they had no natural links; it has always been implied that communism was the 
only system to withhold human rights in this way. But the capitalist 
governments of Britain, both Conservative and Labour, never restored my 
father’s human right to return to the land in which he was born. Human rights 
are not safe under any political regime, and no political system is blameless in 
this area. 


MR. SAKLATVALA, M.P. 


PERMISSION TO VISIT INDIA 
REFUSED. 

The endorsement {or India of the pnasport 
held by Mr. Saktatvaja. M.P., has been c*n- 
csIM by th* Foreign Office. 

Intimation of the cancellation was sent to 
Mr. SuktatMla In the following term*! — “Sir, 
with reference to tli« endorsement on your 
ptisport granted on December 21. 10i«. I am 
directed by Secretary. Sir Aut 1 *n Chamber- 
lain. to inlorm voo Out the validity ol yout 
passport for India has been cancelled. The 
lee lor tin* endorwmetrt can be refunded to 
>*va on your returning the passport to this 
office for cancellation o! the endorsement.” 

Mr. Saklatvala stated on Saturday: M I 

would merely point out that in addition to 
being a member of the British Parliament I 
am olso *o Indian-born subject of Indian 
parents.” 

The cancellation of th* endorsement means. 
It was stated In diplomatic quarter* in tendon, 
on Saturday, that although he l» a native of 
India, Mr. Saklatvala will not b* allowed to 
enter that country. The cam of the children 
who v«t* refuted passport* foe Russia by the 
Foreign Office Mime time ago, tt was pointed 
out. Is entirely different, a» tbe Russian autho- 
rities were atntlouB for tho children to visit the 
country, and one* ttoy had left England there 
was no difficulty in their way. As to Mr. 
Saklatvala. K is at the desire of the Indian 
authorities themselves that the pa report hasbeen 
cancelled. No vim la necessary lor tourneys to 
India, and a special endorsement of a passport 
must be obtained. It ia this which baa been 
cancelled. 


Clipping: The Times, 5th September 1927 
The fact that Father was primarily an internationalist did not in any way 
diminish the intense love he had for India; indeed, it was his desire to free his 


379 




THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


own people from imperialism which was the spur that led him to desire 
freedom for all other peoples also. To hold him as an enforced and permanent 
exile from his country and from his family who lived there was a cruel 
transgression against human rights and liberty and one that cannot be 
justified or forgiven. He was a ‘refusenik’ in this country under a capitalist, not 
a communist, regime. It was, without doubt, the greatest hurt that was ever 
inflicted upon him— a shameful act by shameless men. 

While Saklatvala was in India, the League Against Imperialism was founded 
on 7th April 1927 at a conference in Brussels, with Fenner Brockway as its first 
international chairman; but on Brockway’s return to England, the ILP 
disapproved of his close association with the League, which they thought 
(probably correctly) was communist-inspired. So Brockway resigned the chair 
and James Maxton replaced him. Saklatvala was elected to its executive 
committee later in the same year and continued to be actively involved with 
that body. In August he participated in a conference of the League in Cologne. 
In 1927, the Soviet Union celebrated the 10th anniversary of the October 
Revolution and several specially invited guests, Saklatvala among them, spent 
several days in the USSR. Saklatvala was favourably impressed with the 
progress that had been made since his earlier visit in 1923. During the 
celebratory programme, he and William Gallagher addressed vast crowds in 
Red Square. In his address, Saklatvala alluded to the hypocrisy of the so-called 
democratic system of capitalist governments. 

“I sit in Westminster,” he proclaimed, 

“making laws for India, and, as an Indian, I am the despised slave of 
that Parliament and under the orders of an autocratic and idiotic 
Minister like Chamberlain, I am now told not to go back to my own 
country. That is parliamentary democracy.” 

Later in his speech, appealing to the visitors from all over the world, he said: 
“Ask you friends now to realise what we have witnessed in Leningrad, 
what we have witnessed in Moscow and other towns of the Soviet 
Republics, which probably our Russian comrades have not realised— it 
is a new humanity, an altogether new character of freedom... This is 
success conferred upon the world after our talking and singing about 
socialism for the last two generations. I appeal to you all, my Comrades, 
whether you go back to China, or Great Britain, or Africa or America, to 


380 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


carry with you that great image of the real and truly free men, the real 
and truly emancipated women and the truly cared for children here... 

“In that spirit, Comrades, I beg you to go back to your countries, and 
wish, morning, noon and night for greater success for Sovietism in the 
Soviet Republic and let us not only wish and pass resolutions, but let us 
act and work in our countries in such a manner that within the next two 
or three years we will come back together again as free citizens of our 
Soviets to this, the first Soviet Republic.” 

The celebrations included what has now become a familiar feature of Russian 
life, a parade in Red Square, with cavalrymen from all over the USSR riding 
past. A play lasting two days was performed, showing all the achievements of 
the Soviets during the ten years they had been governing the country, and it 
was broadcast on all the networks throughout the Union. On his return to 
England, Saklatvala told a Sunday Worker correspondent, “Amazing results 
have been achieved since my last visit in 1923, but if I attempted to describe 
them, I should probably be charged with exaggeration.” 

It is interesting to note in passing that in Battersea Saklatvala enjoyed solid 
support from his Catholic constituents, despite the fact that it was always said 
that the Soviet Union made it impossible for Christians to worship freely. 
Three members of the Irish delegation to the Moscow celebrations wrote to 
Saklatvala on their return, proclaiming, “...I was surprised to find the churches 
open, because previously I had read the articles in the capitalist papers. I 
personally attended the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, for I had been told that 
the Red Army soldiers were keeping the people from going to church. I found 
the service going on and the church packed with people. We talked with the 
priests who told us that they had more freedom than under the Tsar.” Similar 
views were expressed by other Catholic members of the Irish Delegation to the 
USSR. 

Despite his travels and various activities, Saklatvala continued to play his 
usual active role in House of Commons debates. Although most of 1926 had 
been taken up with the General Strike, the miners’ strike and Saklatvala’s 
battle against the Emergency Powers Act, he still had not neglected the affairs 
of India. It has always been asserted by those who fought for the liberation of 
India, that Great Britain pursued a policy of ‘divide and rule.’ In a debate on 
India on 20th July 1926, Saklatvala said: 


381 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


“...I at once admit that, ...as a native of India, am not standing in this 
House in a very happy position at the present juncture. I quite admit the 
different positions of the various political sections in India, especially 
the Swaraj [Independence] Party, for which I have a greater partiality 
than for any other section; I do admit, as a native of the country, the 
most deplorable state of affairs with regard to these conflicts which are 
arising out of religion... 

“I myself saw the remark in the Viceroy’s speech with regard to the very 
emphatic denial on the part of His Excellency as to any share in the 
exploitation of this religious movement, either by the Viceroy or by the 
officials generally. That may be quite true and I do not take it as a 
hypothesis, but admit it as a fact, that the Viceroy, as he has gone out 
there with a fair and open mind, would certainly be absolutely innocent 
of any such desire or any such complicity. But it cannot be said 
throughout that there is no ground even for a reasonable suspicion in 
this direction... 

“I was in Newcastle-on-Tyne in Easter week— doing my wild 
propaganda work, as the Home secretary might put it— and I went to the 
Independent Labour Party Conference... A morning paper with a 
notorious title had an editorial article which I passed on to the late 
Minister of Health at the Conference. It deliberately takes credit for the 
cleverness with which the British officials have separated the solidarity 
between Hindus and Mohammedans in India. It claims full credit for 
undoing, within a very short period, the work that was done by Gandhi 
and [Chittaranjan] Das on sentimental grounds. 

“Not only that, but these are almost the sentences in the article in which 
they say that though it may seem bad news, an intelligent Englishman 
who knows the real situation in India will look on it as the best news 
that has come to this country for the last three years. It deliberately puts 
it forward that peace between Hindus and Mohammedans would mean 
the end of the British rule in India, and they say that, not only is there 
no peace today, but they feel thankful that there is no hope of peace and 
that every Britisher rejoices in his heart. I commend that article to the 
noble Lord... 

“I do not take the view, as my Indian friends do, that Indians in 


382 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


association with this Empire will ever receive the treatment and the 
same rights as blood and flesh citizens of the Dominions associated with 
Great Britain, and while putting forward this false political title that you 
are all British citizens and you are a British Empire, three hundred 
million of those British citizens are to be treated in a manner in which 
not a man, woman, child or dog in this country would agree to be 
treated. 

“I again press that point that if you call yourself an Indo-British Empire 
and candidly and frankly put forward a sort of British standard and a 
sort of Indian standard, which as long as it is in your power to impose 
on India you will insist on imposing, you will perhaps take away from 
the people many inconsistent and illogical acts of the government. 

“...On a previous occasion I put to the House the position that the 
responsible British government in India, in which the Indians 
themselves have no part, were the largest employers in the world of 
human labour, and I put it, and I repeat it, that the G of I are employing 
hundreds of thousands of human beings at less than £3 a month... and 
that the same government had in front of it a report by a British official 
pointing out that the cost of living of the lowest type of labourer was 
nearer £4... My efforts have failed in asking the Under-Secretary of 
State for India to put forward the actual figures of these low wages... 

“The government have set the standard, and the industrialists have 
followed it... The association of India with Great Britain may be 
perpetuated as the greatest blight and the greatest curse to human 
society, and especially to the working classes of Great Britain; or the 
association between Great Britain and India, in a spirit of international 
labour co-operation, can be turned into a great advanced movement for 
the civilisation of Europe itself and the salvation of Great Britain 
herself... 

“India under British protection... is becoming a country that produces 
coal fields, jute and cotton mills and iron works in rivalry with this 
country... you will have to tell your citizens... that their trade is in 
danger unless the cost of production goes lower and lower. That is 
exactly what is happening in the coal trade... The reality of life is that 
here in British India, under the protection of the British Army and Navy, 


383 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


with the full blessing of the British nation, there are miners employed at 
eight pence and nine pence a day underground to suffer. 

“The conditions of this country will not be improved by lowering the 
standard of living of the workers. It is not a rotten country that wins the 
race but a united country. The real cure is for the British rulers of India 
to say, ‘We are British. We shall remain British. We shall look at human 
good and human standards from a British point of view, and if we 
cannot afford to do it, we shall be honest and march out, bag and 
baggage.’ 

“I appeal to my Swarajist friends, to Hindus and Mohammedans, to this 
Committee and to the government of India, to study the problem 
seriously and to clearly visualise that it was a mistaken policy to stop 
western Bolshevism, socialism or Labour politics from entering the 
Eastern countries. My Swarajist friends made that mistake. They 
neglected the policy of relying upon the strength of the working classes 
and upon the agricultural workers, and organising them and looking to 
them for support in their political struggles... 

“If they will forget their religious differences, as the people of Europe 
forget them, in the mass, and realise that the mass of the workers must 
form themselves more closely into a united family, and not look upon 
each other as Hindus or Mohammedans... it will be all to the good.... 

“We say that Bolshevism, Labour programmes, socialist programmes, 
following on the general activities in the west, is the only salvation of 
Indians... It is on these grounds that I appeal to the noble Lord to 
remember that we are living in an age after the great civilising 
revolution in Russia, and not before it, and to frame his policy 
accordingly. (Laughter) 

“If I may be allowed to reply to the laughter of hon members opposite, I 
would say that for 150 years the government of India has been 
struggling and have pretended to spread education in India, and today 
there is only 7% of education in India. (Hon. member: How much of it is 
there in Russia?) In the Tsarist time it amounted to 6%. In Russia the 
population is largely oriental, in habit and in mentality, and while the 
government of India have only been able to spread 7% of education in 
India... the Russian Soviet government has been able to increase 


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education from 6% to 96%.” 

Yet again, Saklatvala contrived to combine his cry for communism and his cry 
for the freedom of the Indian people— the two main aims of his political life. 


385 



CHAPTER 19 


Defending the Rights of Workers 

Introduction of the Trades Dispute Bill, 1927. 


The ploy of ‘divide and rule’ was not used only against the Indian people; in 
1927 the labour movement accused the Conservative government of using it to 
smash the power of the trade unions. There is no doubt that the solidarity of 
the workers that had led, the year before, to the General Strike had struck their 
exploiters with a somewhat hysterical fear. They now pressed the panic button 
and introduced the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Bill, that led the trade 
union movement to accuse them of ‘union bashing’. Sympathetic and general 
strikes were to be made illegal, picketing was to be severely regulated and the 
power of the group was to be diminished in favour, the government claimed, 
of the power of the individual; but in practice this would mean diminished 
power for the trade unions and more power to management. 

For those of us who have lived through the 1980s it is an all too familiar 
pattern. 

It is generally said that patriotism is the love of one’s country; I prefer to 
interpret it as love of one’s nation. The nation consists of all the people in the 
land, the ruling class, the management class, as well as the workers who 
actually produce the goods that pay for the ruling class and the management 
class to live, and who provide them with the reason and the wherewithal to 
perform their lucrative functions. 

So the ruling and management classes spread the word that the General Strike 
had put the nation in jeopardy and that therefore the people who organised it 
were unpatriotic; though the workers for whom the General Strike was 
supposed to bring benefit were as much a part of the nation as the ruling and 
management classes. To put the lives and happiness of the productive workers 
in danger was not considered unpatriotic; but to put the profit and power of 
the rulers in peril was said to be unpatriotic. It is a popular belief even today. A 

pity- 

When the 1927 Trade Disputes Bill was introduced, the Conservative Party 


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published a pamphlet, ‘The Trade Dispute Bill Popularly Explained’; and a 
specially convened Trade Union Defence Committee published a tract called, 
‘Union-Smashing By Law— What the Tory government’s Trade Union Bill 
Means.’ The labour movement realised that a national, authoritative, all- 
embracing campaign was needed to fight the bill, particularly since the 
government had such an overwhelming majority in the House that it needed 
more than parliamentary opposition to defeat it. Propaganda against the bill 
was carried on in one of the most well organised enterprises ever embarked 
upon by the combined forces of labour. The introduction of the bill was treated 
almost as a declaration of war against the working class. 

When the Trade Disputes Bill was first introduced, Saklatvala was on the boat 
returning from his Indian tour; but one of the first things he did immediately 
after his return was to publish a pamphlet entitled ‘May Day 1927; 
S.Saklatvala’s Message to his Constituents on his Return from India’. This 
opened with the words: “I am glad to be back in my constituency of Battersea 
to take up my work in Parliament on behalf of the workers, and I will do all in 
my power to help in the struggle against the iniquitous Trade Union Bill.” He 
went on to say: 

“...I have just returned from India and can testify to the terrible 
conditions under which workers, unprotected by a strong Trade Union 
or Labour movement, are compelled to live. A similar state of 
degradation is in store for the workers of Britain... In every district a 
strong Council of Action and a Workers’ Defence Corps should be 
formed to prepare the whole Labour movement for an energetic 
campaign against the Bill, culminating in a real General Strike of all 
workers... 

“In Parliament, all the Labour MPs must be asked by their respective 
constituencies to obstruct all parliamentary procedure if the Bill is not 
withdrawn. It is no use fighting the Bill by pettifogging amendments... 
The necessary preliminary to all those effective measures which must be 
adopted if the Bill is to be fought, is the unity of the workers... Are 
British workers organised to safeguard their honour and freedom or are 
they to be split among themselves in spite against the Communist 
movement of Russia, China or Britain?... 

“I, therefore, beseech you all, men and women of Battersea, to help your 


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committees to get over their personal squabbles and to let the working- 
class mass unite together as one family determined in its fight against 
capitalism and imperialism.” 

It was on May 5th 1927 that Saklatvala launched his initial and forthright 
parliamentary attack against the bill when he addressed the House thus: 

“To borrow the phraseology of Lord Birkenhead, I look upon this Bill as 
a downright act of treason against parliamentary government... I have 
said previously that it is legislation of this sort which completely 
destroys what we call the majesty of the law. Every British citizen would 
be a contemptible creature if, after the passing of this Bill, he held any 
British law in respect or reverence, and the Tory government will find 
out its mistake.” 

Of course we are now long past the events of 1927; but that there is less and 
less regard for the law in this country is an undoubted and sad fact— there is 
little stigma attached to the breaking of many laws, and even a prison sentence 
no longer automatically invokes social condemnation for certain 
transgressions; indeed, people of public renown and repute drink and drive, 
break motoring laws, cheat on their income tax and other taxes, and 
frequently find it something to boast about. Somewhere along the line the law 
has put itself in a position where it is no longer believed always to be in the 
right. So perhaps Father was right in suggesting that anti-trade union, anti- 
working class laws would ultimately corrode the average citizen’s respect for 
the law in general. 

The bill then being debated sought, among other things, to prevent trade 
unions from collecting funds from its members to donate to any political 
party, against the will of the individual member of the union. Saklatvala 
pointed out that a clause of conscience already existed in trade union law and 
any member could, as a matter of conscience, opt out of paying the political 
levy. He went farther; he contended that the Prime Minister had already come 
to an agreement that a clause in the bill restricting the payment of a political 
levy would not be included in the final bill. “I challenge him,” he declared, “has 
he not already made a pledge that the Bill will not be put on the Statute Book 
unless he is permitted to withdraw the political levy clause as a last moment 
peace-offering to the Labour Party. He knows quite well that he is wasting the 
time of the House in making it discuss the political levy... It would be worth 


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seeing if they put it in after the dissentions in their own ranks.” 

“Then,” he continued, “we come to the question of lock-outs. Of course, lock- 
outs will not be needed after this Bill. The working man is a serf. He is a slave. 
He is not going to propose terms. He is going to be dictated to. He cannot 
strike; he cannot defend himself; he cannot take any counter-action in his own 
defence. So the Bill itself is devised as a perpetual lock-out in the hands of the 
master-class...” 

One of the clauses in the bill was to make it illegal for any individual to be 
punished or intimidated for not participating in a strike or other action 
organised by the union; the wording ran: “Intimidation means to cause a 
person to fear injury to himself... ‘injury’ includes not only physical injury, but 
the fear of boycott, exposure to hatred, ridicule or contempt.” 

Saklatvala was scornful of this clause: 

“With regard to persecutions... I must tell the government that if ever 
they put this Bill into operation and a series of actions are brought into 
the courts of law on the grounds that this man said that, and that man 
said this, and so on, they would not in reality be punishing those who 
dared to pour contempt and ridicule upon one another, but would be 
causing the whole world to pour contempt and ridicule upon Great 
Britain. What a sight it would be for the nations of the world! Men and 
women going up to the magistrate and saying, ‘He made faces at me,’ 
‘He did not speak to me,’ ‘He walked out of the assembly.’ What 
nonsense to come from the Tory Party! 

“We heard last Monday morning of a Minister in the present 
government going to Hyde Park last Sunday. We saw a report in the 
Daily Mirror— that patriotic organ— that when the national anthem was 
sung, some people did not like to join in. Some did not remove their 
hats, but their neighbours promptly forced them to remove them. Could 
those people be put in prison? 

“I do not know how far the members opposite were guilty, but after 
some visionary event in my own life, I read in the newspapers that the 
Tory members walked out of the House when the member for Battersea 
rose to speak... Were they all to be clapped into gaol? The whole point is 
so ridiculous, childish and nonsensical that the man who framed such a 
law ought to be turned out and his name scratched off as a lawyer of 


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merit.” 

One of the most important clauses in the bill declared General Strikes or 
sympathetic strikes to be illegal. Saklatvala contended that it was the right of 
every worker to withdraw his labour to draw attention to his grievances and no 
one could make any strike, general or otherwise, illegal. He claimed the whole 
law to be merely farcical: 

“The Prime Minister confessed yesterday that it was the events of last 
year that compelled him to change his mind [and to introduce the Bill], 
but he did not explain which event. Was it the event of our Foreign 
Secretary meeting his great Italian Master [he was referring to 
Mussolini] on a river yacht for secret conversations? Was it the event of 
the Foreign Secretary suddenly being introduced as an Honorary 
member of the Italian Fascisti? Which event of last year has made this 
Bill possible? 

“In such a debate as this it does not behove one to take up much time. I 
have only got to say this to the government. We in the Communist 
movement do not believe in relief being sought by the working classes 
by a mere promise that the Bill shall be repealed, though we are heart 
and soul with those who desire that it shall be repealed, and we will 
work towards that end... We say that the working classes cannot get 
their rights so long as the capitalist class is in power. The capitalist class 
believe in giving knock-out blows of the most unscrupulous character 
every time they can find a chance, and the policy of the working class 
must be to give them open, deliberate, knock-out blows, one after 
another... 

“This Bill will enlighten the proletariat and quicken them up, and then 
you will see the unity between the Communists and the Trade 
Unionists... You may take our word for it that settled government in this 
country and so-called law and order by a gang of conspirators and 
forgers is impossible. We challenge you to go ahead with this measure, 
and you will see where you fall down.” 

When the debate was resumed on the following day, Saklatvala again took up 
the fight. He said: 

“It has been made amply clear that the present series of amendments 
before the Committee are making the original Bill a little worse than it 


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was before... I suggest seriously to the government that if the want 
‘peace in our time, O Lord’, they should scrap this Bill and accept all the 
eleven amendments which stand in my name.” 

These eleven amendments had been published as an article in the Sunday 
Worker on 13th May 1927 (see the Appendix to this chapter). 

The Sunday Worker had claimed: 

“The Bill is designed to abolish strikes of all descriptions, to do away 
with picketing, however peaceful, to cripple the political Labour 
Movement by destroying the effectiveness of the political levy, and to 
divorce civil servants from Trade Union activity.” 

Harry Pollitt called for a 24-hour General Strike of protest to be called as from 
midnight on 1st May. The Communist Party invited the ILP to a joint attack 
against the Bill and against the war being waged in China but the ILP did not 
respond to the suggestion. Mass rallies were held up and down the country to 
combat the threatened legislation. Saklatvala addressed a huge convocation of 
workers on Wormwood Scrubs on May 29th and the usual meetings were held 
in Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. 

Of course, Ramsay MacDonald had been right when he said it would be 
impossible to defeat the passing of the Bill in the House and it was finally 
passed at the end of July. The voice of the people had rung out loud and clear 
but it had no effect on those in power. 

(Strange is it not, that members of even democratically elected governments 
seem all too often to be stricken with deafness— what a pity they cannot at the 
same time be struck dumb). 

Saklatvala’s view of the bill was expressed with his usual quiet humour when 
he was making a report of his year’s work in parliament and in India. He had 
tried, he said, time and time again to get the TUC General Council to help in 
organising Indian trade unions (in fact, he had approached them first in 1911), 
but all they did was to advise him to take what concessions the government 
would give, and so in time build up the Indian movement to the level of the 
British trade unions— and when they had said this, he added, we had the 
spectacle of the British government bringing the TUC down to that of the 
Indian unions. 


39i 


Appendix to Chapter 19: 
Amendments to the Trade Disputes 

Bill 


From the Sunday Worker on 13th May 1927: 

Communist Reply to Scab Bill— Saklatvala’s Amendments Which Turn 
its Edge Against Capitalism 

A very forcible and marked contrast with the sham amendments to the 
Trade Union Bill put forward by the Labour Party leaders is shown by 
the following amendments which stand in the name of Comrade 
Saklatvala: 

CLAUSE 1 to read: It is hereby declared that any strike having any 
object calculated to improve the wages, working conditions, or social 
conditions of the trade unionists, either directly or indirectly, is legal 
even though the strike involves the entire membership of the trade 
union movement. 

It shall be legal for any body of workers to stop work to assist another 
body of workers even though they themselves are not in dispute with 
their own employers over any question of wages or conditions of labour. 
Any provision in previous Acts declaring such action to be a breach of 
contract shall be repealed. 

For the purposes of the above, a trade dispute is any withdrawal of 
labour of any extent whatever which, in the view of the trade union 
movement, is calculated to improve the wages, working conditions, or 
social conditions of its members, either directly or indirectly. 

It shall also be legal for a strike to be directed against a government 
which is supporting the employers in their attitude towards the Trade 
Union Movement on any industrial or political question affecting the 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


interests of trade unionists. 

CLAUSE 2 to read: No person refusing to take part in any strike 
declared by his union shall be entitled to claim exemption from the 
penalties imposed on him by his trade union if such penalties are a part 
of the registered rules of the union. 

CLAUSE 3 to read: It is hereby declared that it is lawful for one or two 
persons to attend at or near a house or place where a person resides or 
works for the purpose of obtaining or communicating information. The 
number of people so attending shall not be limited, and the duty of the 
police shall be confined to preventing any action of violence against 
individuals such as are punishable by ordinary law. 

CLAUSE 4 to read: It shall not be lawful to require any member of a 
trade union to make any contribution to the political fund of a union 
unless before the date upon which the contribution is levied a ballot has 
been taken of the members of the union and a majority of the members 
participating in the ballot have declared in favour of creating a political 
fund. In the event of the majority of the members participating in the 
ballot declaring in favour of the creation of the political fund, this 
majority decision shall be binding on all members of the union until 
reversed by another ballot. A ballot on the question of creating or 
maintaining a political fund shall be taken every three years. Provided 
that no conference of the Labour Party or any other body to which the 
union is affiliated or the governing body of the union itself shall have 
power to refuse to levy any member in respect of political contributions 
or to refuse any member so levied the right to run for the parliamentary 
panel of the union or as delegate to any body to which the union is 
affiliated for political purposes. 

CLAUSE 5 to read: Amongst the regulations as to the conditions of 
service in HM’s civil establishments there shall be included regulations 
compelling every employee of the concern to be a member of the 
appropriate trade union catering for the grade of labour, whether 
mental or manual, to which he belongs. Employees in HM’s civil 
establishments shall be granted the same rights as workers in private 
employment, viz., the right to strike in unison with workers in private 
employment, if necessary, to maintain or improve the wages, working 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


conditions, or social conditions generally. Unions catering for workers 
employed in HM’s civil establishments shall be free to unite or federate 
for any industrial or political purpose with unions of workers in private 
employment. It shall be lawful for any soldiers, sailors, airmen, or other 
ranks of the military, naval and air forces to continue membership of the 
trade unions of which they were members in civil life; or to enter such 
trade unions as may cater for their occupations; and it shall be lawful for 
organisers or other members of political organisations or Trade Unions 
to conduct any propaganda, verbal and in writing, amongst soldiers, 
sailors, airmen, or other ranks of the forces enumerated, intended or 
calculated to procure their entry into Trade Unions. 

CLAUSE 6 to read: It shall not be lawful for any local or other public 
authority to employ any person for more than a week who is not a 
member of or who has not made application to become a member of a 
registered trade union. 

CLAUSE 7 to read: Without prejudice to the right of any person having a 
sufficient interest in the relief sought to sue or apply for an injunction to 
restrain any application of the funds of a trade union in contravention of 
the provisions of this Act. No person not a member of the union against 
whom the injunction is being sought shall have powers to apply for an 
injunction. 

The following additional amendments have also been sent in by 
Comrade Saklatvala: 

TO CLAUSE 1: If any employer of labour shall combine with other 
employers for the purpose of reducing the wages, lengthening the hours 
of labour, worsening the working conditions or lowering the social 
status of their employees by lock-out or otherwise, they shall be liable, 
individually and collectively, on summary conviction to the confiscation 
and nationalisation of their factories, shops or other undertakings 
without compensation. 

TO CLAUSE 2: An employer or group of employers recruiting, or 
attempting to recruit, by propaganda or otherwise, voluntary or paid 
labour during an industrial dispute in which he is or they are engaged; 
or forming, or attempting to form, or to procure the formation of a trade 
union embracing only his or their employers, and precluded by its rules 


394 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


from striking, shall be liable to a fine of not less than £10,000 or 5 years 
imprisonment with the penalty for a second offence of nationalisation of 
their property without compensation. 

TO CLAUSE 3: It shall be unlawful for any employer or association of 
employers to draw up or cause to be drawn up, or to circulate in any 
shape or form, lists or names of workers whom they do not desire to be 
employed; or to dismiss from their employment any worker who is a 
member of a factory, works, shop, depot, or similar committee, elected 
by the employees of such employer or association of employers for the 
defence of their economic, political or social interests; the penalty for 
contravention of this regulation being a fine of not less than £10,000 or 
5 years imprisonment, and nationalisation of their property without 
compensation for a second offence. 


395 



CHAPTER 20 


A Cloak on the Tyranny 

The Government of India Bill, establishing the Simon 

Commission. 


In February 1927, while Saklatvala was away in India, the question of sending 
a Statutory Commission to India was raised in the House of Commons. Under 
the terms of the India Act 1919, there was to be a decennial review, and the 
Commons now sought to bring such a review forward. 

It was not until June that the proposed composition of the Commission came 
up for discussion. Needless to say, although the Commission’s task was to 
report on the future development of the administration of India, it was to be 
made up exclusively of English men. Small wonder, then, that from the first, it 
was rejected by the great majority of politically-minded Indians. 

A joint committee was set up in India by the Indian National Congress with 
Motilal Nehru as its chairman. While not demanding out and out freedom for 
India, this committee demanded that Great Britain should grant dominion 
status; this did not please other political groups in the country which 
demanded total independence. 

During a debate on 2nd June 1927 in the House of Commons, George 
Lansbury, in a speech praised by Saklatvala, said: 

“I put it to the noble Lord (Earl Winterton) that the time has come when 
we should cease treating the Indians as if they were good or bad 
children. We should treat them as our equals in this matter of the right 
to determine the future of their own country... 

“...And I say that the time is long since overdue when we should give 
back to that nation the thing which they have not had for generations, 
namely, the right to rule themselves.” 

Saklatvala took part in the debate on India a few days later: 

“I listened not only with interest, but with a great amount of respect and 
gratitude to the speech of the hon member for Bow and Bromley (Mr 
Lansbury), and yet on certain fundamental points I stand as much apart 


396 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


from his views as those of Lord Birkenhead. 

“The hon member who has just sat down (Mr Wardlow-Milne) said that 
the majority of the people of India held moderate opinions. I do not 
know what moderate opinions are when one talks of India. I suppose 
that ‘moderate opinion’ is that which agrees with the views of the hon 
member for Kidderminster (Mr Wardlow-Milne). I have frequently put 
it to this Committee and I do it once again that in the year 1927— never 
mind what happened in 1827— it is absolutely impossible for one 
country to hold another in subjection and pretend to offer them 
measures of reform giving them a partnership in the Commonwealth. 
That is all humbug. 

“I see that a new Commission is to be appointed and I would like to ask, 
what is going to be the scope of that Commission and its terms of 
reference? Everybody knows, whether it is put in black and white or not, 
that the first thing that will be put in the terms of reference is how this 
country can keep a stranglehold over India. That is a primary condition. 
“Another condition will be that you must give to the Viceroy full power, 
and place a whip in his hand by which the interest, the prestige and the 
political power of Britain shall never be allowed to suffer a scratch. 
Whether that is put down in print or not, it is the fact. Perhaps hon 
members will pardon me for putting things very bluntly, but I think it is 
the only way in which I can explain my views. 

“Between slavery and freedom there is no middle course, and the 
transition from slavery to freedom can never be attained by gradual 
measures. As long as you continue slavery, it must continue with the full 
strength in the bond; the bond must be strong to hold down the people. 
When you make up your minds that there shall be no slavery, then the 
bond must break, and it must break completely. There is no human 
possibility of gradual reform and gradual freedom. 

“The hon member for Kidderminster perverted an historical truth when 
he said that the last reforms of 1919 were not given to India by the 
government under coercion. The government of Great Britain played 
one of the most deceitful games in their history by pretending to give 
reforms to India, because the then government of Great Britain was 
working under the greatest force and pressure and coercion of American 


397 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


and European nations. 

“After the war, after the destruction of the power of the Kaiser, Great 
Britain stood, to the shame of the world, as worse than ten thousand 
Kaisers in her rule in India; and, in order to save the face of Great 
Britain, to show that Great Britain was no longer the only imperialist 
power in the world, that the British Imperialism after the war was 
modifying itself into a group of Commonwealths, under tremendous 
coercion, perfidious Albion played the perfidious game by giving what 
you call reforms. In the reforms granted to India there is no measure of 
freedom... 

“Why does Great Britain presume that, of all the savage peoples in the 
world who cannot manage their affairs, she must be the controller of 
India only? Why do you not take into your charge the people of Persia, 
the people of China, the people of Egypt, the people of Turkey, and 
everywhere else in the same manner and fashion as you take charge of 
the people of India? Did you not believe that the people of Germany had 
no instinct of democracy? Why did you not take charge of them? You say 
the Italian people have not the same instincts of democracy that the 
British people have. Why do you not go and assume parentage over 
them? 

“It is all nonsense to say that for the benefit of the Indians the British 
nation has got to be there, and is performing a benevolent action. For 
goodness sake, be honest and say you are a nation of enterprise, and in 
seeking for enterprise to seek your own good, opportunity placed you in 
a strong position to throttle the country and the people of India— you 
are there and you are determined to remain there as long as you can get 
any good out of it... 

“The hon member for Kidderminster said that there has been 
tremendous progress in India since I do not know when— the last twenty 
or thirty years.” 

Mr Wardlow-Milne: “I am quite willing to make it a hundred years.” 

Mr Saklatvala: “Make it as much as you like. I am prepared to grant you 
a still further term of 150 years, and I say that a nation which, after 150 
years of hypocritical pretence has kept the literacy of the people down to 
6%, ought to be pilloried in public in the eyes of the nations of the 


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THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


world. 

“When a nation that says: ‘I control and give progress to the people of 
India,’ fails miserably— or rather, does not fail, but artfully and 
deceitfully, in its own interest, prevents 100% of education, and limits it 
like a tyrant and oppressor of an unspeakable character to 6%,— how 
can any member of that nation come and say, ‘I am proud of my 
progress.’? 

“Take the death rate in India, the crushing infantile death rate in that 
city of Bombay; take the progress of the hon member’s own firm there. 
It has been a progress in infantile mortality from 150 to 200 up to 600 
and 800 per thousand. There is tremendous progress in the murder of 
children all over India, and all over the industrial towns and cities 
there... 

“The hon member gives us the consolation that there are not so many 
deaths from famine... famine is no longer a periodical condition in India 
—it is the constant lot of the people. To die from semi-starvation is a 
permanent condition in the country; the condition is not one of 
periodical famine... 

“A government that tolerates a death rate such as exists to day in India 
is the most unfit government on the face of the world, and, if nothing 
else, the murder of 4V2 millions of Indians who are dying because of the 
British rule, over and above the normal death rate which should exist in 
a tropical country like India, is alone a sufficient reason to tell the 
British to go out, bag and baggage, in spite of all the chimneys that they 
are capable of erecting when they are there.” 

Saklatvala then went on to speak of the plight of Indian workers in 
international and communist terms, relating the condition of the workers in 
India and in Great Britain; this was another of his constant and reiterated 
themes. He contended that the interests of the managers and owners of 
industry in the two countries were in competitive conflict the one with the 
other; whereas the workers of both nations should unite for their mutual 
benefit and common interest. 

“The mill-owners of India and the mill owners of Lancashire would 
rather wish to see each other weakened and destroyed. The mill workers 
in India and the mill workers of Lancashire will both gain an advantage 


399 



THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT 


by standing together, fighting together, working for a common standard 
of life, demanding the same standard of wages and demanding the same 
form of political franchise, liberty and freedom... 

“And where this country continually comes into conflict is on this 
question, that whenever you talk of reforms, whenever you talk of 
progress, whenever you talk of any measure of liberty you in your hearts 
believe that by granting a few concessions to your own class-brethren in 
India you are building a bridge of some kind. You are doing nothing of 
the kind. You are strengthening a class which in its economic interests is 
your rival and your competitor...” 

He returned to the subject of a Commission to draw up a new constitution for 
India: 

“...Just as this country would not allow Chinamen or Germans to write a 
constitution for this country, it is equally absurd for this country to 
appoint a Committee to write a constitution for the people of India, on 
whatever basis. The only point of discussion in this Chamber should be 
whether this country is still to be a tyrant over India, or whether it will 
be courageous enough to say ‘no’ and cease to be a tyrant.” 

When the government of India— Statutory Commission Bill came up for the 
second reading at the end of November 1927, Saklatvala moved an 
amendment. The intention of the bill was to bring forward the decennial 
review of the government of India Act 1919 (due in 1929). 

“When the noble Lord (Lord Winterton) was introducing the Bill, he 
showed a little surprise that I should be prepared to offer opposition to 
the Bill as it stands... I think the noble Earl when he made the sweeping 
assertion that it is merely shifting the date, that there is no opposition in 
this country or in India, misinformed himself as well as the House, in 
that there is bitter opposition in responsible Indian circles capable of 
expressing themselves against this Bill... 

“The Leader of the Opposition is supporting the Bill, I suppose taking it 
as a non-contentious Bill... members of this House are under the 
impression that a desire was expressed by the Indians themselves for an 
earlier appointment of the Commission. 

“I think the House is mixing up two things. The Indians greatly desire, 
not a Commission that would justify the India Act, but a sort of round 


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table conference to clear the air... and not the appointment of a 
Statutory Commission under the Act... There are no issues which can be 
explored with any usefulness by any such Commission and therefore to 
expedite such a Commission is merely enacting a farce earlier. 

“The issue is perfectly clear. Is Great Britain determined to carry on an 
antiquated, savage system of rule of another country and another 
people, or is Great Britain prepared to let the people of every country 
manage their own affairs, in a friendly way or even a hostile way if they 
choose so to do?... The early appointment of the Commission does not 
get rid of the belief that the only purpose of the government is to put a 
hypocritical cloak on the system of tyranny which, in the name of 
common sense and justice, ought to be abolished as soon as possible. 

“I suggest to the government that they should be bold enough to 
withdraw the Bill, and that if they are not afraid of the truth they should 
appoint, not a Statutory Commission under the Act, but an independent 
Commission composed entirely of Indians. Let those Indians come over 
to this country and cross examine you and listen to your witnesses and 
advise the House as to what is the exact position. 

“The Bill precludes all such chances of preliminary negotiations and 
hastens the appointment of a Commission which is hated by the 
Indians, which is not required by them, which is only serving a 
dishonest and hypocritical purpose of Imperialism and is not intended 
to advance the freedom of a conquered country which you have no right 
to govern. I therefore move the rejection of the Bill.” 

Once again, Saklatvala stood almost alone in the House, supported by a mere 
handful of the more left-wing Labour members, since the Labour Party 
officially supported the Bill. His amendment was seconded by the Labour 
member for Glasgow, Gorbals, Mr Buchanan. 

In the course of a further debate, during the Committee Stage of the Statutory 
Commission Bill, with Mr James Hope in the Chair, Saklatvala moved an 
amendment: 

“to insert the words, ‘provided that the said Commission shall not be 
appointed until a Resolution shall have been agreed to by the Legislative 
Assembly of India approving of its appointment.’ 

“...Apart from the wording of the Act, (India Act 1919) I submit that 


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after its passage, though not perhaps during its passage, it had become a 
contract between two parties, between the government of this country 
and the body entrusted with whatever measure of popular government 
was granted to India. 

“Today we are asked to take a course of action by which one of the 
contracting parties wants to alter the contract radically, completely 
disregarding the existence of the other contracting party. That other 
contracting party, having heard of our one-sided activity through other 
channels such as the press, is objecting as strongly as possible and in 
whatever manner it can against this proposal. I have just this morning 
received a cablegram from the Trade Union Congress of India— ” 

The Under-Secretary of State for India (Earl Winterton): “I wish to raise 
a point of order. I ask you, respectfully, Sir, whether it is not quite out of 
order on any part of this Bill, much less on this amendment, to discuss 
the composition or proposed composition of the Commission... As I 
understand the hon member, he is now dealing with objections which 
are being taken in India to the proposed Commission.” 

Mr Saklatvala: “...I assure the noble Lord, I am not bothered about the 
personnel of the Commission. If the Commission is wrong, any saint or 
scoundrel appointed to it will be in the wrong place.” 

In reply to Saklatvala, Earl Winterton launched into a vituperative attack upon 
him, thereby incurring great indignation among many fellow members. In the 
course of a bitter tirade he demanded: 

“What right has the hon gentleman to come down here and make a most 
serious charge against every Party in the House of breaking faith with 
the people of India by breaking the spirit and the letter of the Act of 
1919?... I must say quite frankly again, that no one who has the remotest 
knowledge of India could possible accept the hon gentleman as an 
exponent of Indian opinion... he is repudiated by every responsible 
organisation in India. There is not a responsible organisation in India 
that accepts the hon gentleman as its spokesman... 

“May I point out to the hon gentleman the fact, although he ought to 
have known it before speaking with such confidence, that there have 
been no less than five resolutions passed in the Assembly in India in 
favour of the acceleration of the date?... Yet here is an hon gentleman 


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who comes down here and claims, forsooth, to be an exponent of India 
opinion, telling us that these five resolutions have got to be entirely 
disregarded, that he, the member for North Battersea, the 
representative of 300,000,000 Indian people, demands that this 
Committee shall retard the date ...” 

Mr Buchanan, member for Glasgow, Gorbals, interrupted the aristocratic 
oration with the question, “Will the noble Lord kindly inform me of the dates 
of these five resolutions, or, say, the date of the last one?” 

To which the noble Lord somewhat lamely replied, “I could not give the hon 
member the date off-hand, but resolutions have been passed at different times 
ever since the Assembly came into being in 1920.” 

(In spite of repeated demands from many members during the period of over 
an hour, Winterton failed to produce any evidence of the five resolutions, 
being able to quote a date for only one, and that had been in 1921!) 

Lieut. Commander Kenworthy (Labour) then intervened: 

“The noble Lord must be very grateful to me, because but for my 
boldness in protesting against his attempt to rush the Committee stage 
yesterday, he would not have been able to treat the House this afternoon 
to this flow of invective against the hon member for North Battersea (Mr 
Saklatvala)... 

“The noble Lord said that the hon member for North Battersea had no 
right to speak for any section of Indian opinion. I do not know that it 
behoves me particularly to defend the hon member for North Battersea; 
I think he can look after himself. But the noble Lord seemed to question 
the right of any member of this House to give certain opinions. The hon 
member for North Battersea was sent here by the electorate in his 
constituency, and has every right to voice his opinion in this House. I 
am sure the hon member treats the electors of North Battersea to a great 
many tirades on the Indian question, and that they well know his views. 
The noble Lord, beside being a great ornament to this House, is an Irish 
Peer. What section of Irish opinion does he represent?” 

The Chairman: “The hon and gallant member’s question opens up an 
alarming vista.” 

Lieut. Commander Kenworthy: “...I was only protesting against the 


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noble Lord’s suggestion that the hon member on this side speaks for no 
section of Indian opinion, and when an Irish Peer, who has estates in 
England, and sits for a Sussex constituency, says that, I make the 
obvious retort, but I will not repeat it. I really think the under-secretary 
need not get heated over this matter at all. 

“I, personally, am very glad to hear the views of the hon member for 
North Battersea on Indian affairs. He is the only Indian born native in 
the House as far as I know. The noble Lord can console himself that he 
is going to get the Committee stage of this Bill. He has no need to worry 
about that. What he has got to worry about is Indian opinion in India, 
and if he would address himself to that, and not allow his leg to be 
pulled by the hon member for North Battersea, it would be better.” 

Then came a very apt comment by Mr Stephen in support of Saklatvala: 

“I wish to join in protesting against the tone of the Under-Secretary of 
State for India in his references to the hon member for North Battersea. 
He said the hon member does not represent any responsible Indian 
opinion. It is perhaps true or it is perhaps incorrect, but the point that 
struck me in this connection was that it came very badly from the noble 
Lord to make such a statement, seeing that the government of which he 
is a junior member was responsible for keeping the hon member for 
North Battersea from visiting his own country to get into touch with 
Indian opinion. I think that the noble Lord would have been well 
advised if he had kept his temper when he was replying to the speech of 
the hon member for North Battersea.” 

Mr Wallhead (Labour) then followed in defence of Saklatvala. In the course of 

his speech he said: 

“It would have been as well if, before the noble Lord thought out his 
scheme of indictment against the hon member for North Battersea, he 
had been quite sure of his facts... he charged the hon member with not 
being representative of Indian opinion and said that he represented no 
one at all. 

“I believe that on a recent visit to India the hon member was presented 
with nine open Addresses by nine of the great cities of India, some of 
which have refused the same privilege and honour to Lord Irwin, the 
Viceroy. If what I say is correct, as I am sure it is— and I believe the hon 


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member has these Addresses in his possession now— I think at least the 
noble Lord might have known those facts... I think the noble Lord 
should withdraw his statement and apologise to the hon member for 
North Battersea for the statement he has made.” 

Nor did the attacks against the noble Lord rest there. Jimmy Maxton then took 

the floor. He said: 

“...Listening to the noble Lord today and the subsequent discussion 
gives the impression that the government seems absolutely determined 
in the handling of this question to proceed from folly to folly; and as one 
who is genuinely anxious that the great Indian people shall be 
established in a position of liberty and dignity to develop their nation 
according to their own genius, I regret very much that first the noble 
Lord the Secretary of State, in the other place [the House of Lords], and 
then the noble Lord the Under- Secretary of State in this House, should 
indicate to the Indian people that they had nothing but contempt for 
them. 

“What possible measure of confidence can we have that the government 
will deal with the Indian people in a decent, gentlemanly, man-to-man 
fashion, when they cannot treat with ordinary common courtesy the one 
representative of the Indian people who sits in this House? I think it 
should have been possible for a responsible Minister of the Crown... to 
have put through this Bill, to have listened to any criticism to it with 
restraint and dignity, having regard to the fact that there were greater 
issues at stake than his amour propre...” 

Mr Becket than took up the cudgels on Saklatvala’s behalf: 

“I am rather surprised that the Under- Secretary of State resented this 
amendment quite so strongly. I only felt, when reading it, amazement 
that the hon member for North Battersea (Mr Saklatvala) should have 
come forward with such an extremely mild amendment. It seems to me 
such a very reasonable request to make that I cannot understand why 
any hon member on the other side of the House should hesitate for a 
moment to support it. It certainly does not justify the very un-English 
practice of standing up supported by big battalions and taunting a man 
in the way that has been done, just because he happens to be in a 
minority of one. 


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“I do not suppose any member will find more points of disagreement 
with the hon member for North Battersea than myself, but he is 
certainly entitled to express his opinions without being treated 
insolently, and in this particular case I think that he has moved an 
amendment which has nothing to do with any particular Party 
prejudice, but it is an extremely moderate and very helpful 
amendment.” 

It will be understood from the above lively exchanges that Saklatvala did not 
want for champions in the House of Commons, despite his political isolation 
in that body. Through his years of sincere service he had earned and acquired 
the respect and friendship of many members whose political views were 
divergent from his own. But, as Lieut. Commander Kenworthy had said, 
Saklatvala was well able to take care of himself (though I have no doubt he 
must have been deeply grateful for the support he received). Nevertheless, 
Saklatvala himself launched an offensive against the noble Lord: 

“I apologise to the House for intervening in this debate a second time, 
but I think the extraordinary characte